PosterVirus / Day With(out) Art – Jessica Lynn Whitbread & Alexander McClelland with: Kia Labeija, Jessica Karuhanga, Shan Kelley, FASTWÜRMS and Brendan Fernandes
PosterVirus pressed pause. To breathe. To reflect. To collect our strength. To analyze the breadth of work made for the Day Without Art from 2011 to 2013. We launched the project on the 30th anniversary of the ‘official’ discovery of AIDS. Since then, activist/art posters for the affinity group of AIDS ACTION NOW! have been made by 20+ artists and 30+ activists on HIV and Hepatitis C related issues such as incarceration, sexual autonomy, sex work, history, mental health, criminalization, harm reduction and drug liberation, poverty, stigma, homophobia and racism. Issues requiring complexity, depth, and an intersectional analysis. The messages and images have continued to spark dialogue that leads to changes in the ways we think about, and talk about the two viruses.
This year we look to love, memory, loss, and hope… or false hope. In 2016, PosterVirus worked with artists Kia Labeija, Jessica Karuhanga, Shan Kelley, FASTWÜRMS and Brendan Fernandes. Kia’s poster addresses her power in being an HIV-positive woman who has been rendered no longer infectious through the use of HIV treatment, a new identity that is changing our lives as people living with HIV. Jessica’s poster looks to her family’s Ugandan heritage and the poetics of space, distance and memory, where she presents a text message dialogue between herself and her father about her aunt who died of AIDS. Shan’s poster looks at apathy through the culture of memorial, and the endless imperative to present publicly as healthy, happy and compliant. FASTWÜRMS poster is a message of universal love and acceptance intervening in a seemingly unending culture of stigma and discrimination. And Brendan’s poster challenges the new biomedical mediated HIV-negative self, with the unquestioning heralding of PrEP as a panacea in the response.
Collectively these works highlight the complexities facing our lives. We’ve been in a cycle. Being built up to be torn down. Broken down to be built up. Endless confusion. Self-assured. Self-doubt. We want to step out of this cycle. Institutions that govern our lives continue to perpetuate fear of HIV and Hepatitis C. Fear that maintains in our communities, health care providers, families and chosen families, and in our own conception of ourselves. But we know different. We know that collectively we can make it stop.
This year when you light a candle for our friends who have passed from AIDS, and for us who are still alive, let the flame burn bright. And then burn it all down.
Shan Kelley “DEAD TIRED OF BEING SO BLOODY POSITIVE”
Brendan Fernandes “IN PrEP WE TRUST?”
Jessica Karuhanga “She had my mom’s complexion! She was the most mild mannered in our family, shy and quite. It would take a lot to rattle her quiet disposition and in fact, I don’t think i ever heard her complain or whine! I mostly have memories of her as my little sister, who I would be protective of all the time! And for her part, once she loved she did so unreservedly!”
Kia LaBeija “#undetectable”
FASTWÜRMS “LOVE IS THE LAW”
Jessica Lynn Whitbread As a community organizer, artist, activist, academic and at times a “professional”, I am interested in doing work that creates spaces for dialogue about social justice and social change. I do this through public installations, consciousness raising, workshop development and facilitation, engaging in direct action, policy review, research and any other method that allows a variety of stakeholders to engage in a diversity of ways. I believe that acts of kindness are stronger than acts of fear and that strong, united hearts can overcome the inequalities of this world.
Alexander McClelland is a writer and researcher who is currently working on a doctorate at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies in Society and Culture, Concordia University. His work focuses on the intersections of life, law and disease. He has developed a range of collaborative and interdisciplinary writing, academic, artistic and curatorial projects to address issues of criminalization, sexual autonomy, surveillance, drug liberation, and the construction of knowledge on HIV and AIDS.