The bodies we inhabit are not impermeable; they do not come into the world packaged with assurances of forever. We accept that with time our body will degenerate and breakdown. We hope that this will happen at a remote point, as if our mortality is on the horizon, signposted somewhere just beyond our focus. We don’t have to look for signs.
In a doctor’s surgery is a poster for HIV/AIDS awareness, the patient is told: ‘Look behind you, this is you now’... This is what he became when he was informed of his bodies’ inhabitation by an incurable virus.
For the generations brought up with the discovery of HIV/AIDS, its symbolism was depicted by images of the deathbed, the tolling bell and the tomb. The emaciated body, the vials of blood, the shock that Oliviero Toscani used to sell you jumpers by Benetton. Strategies were engaged by artists that articulated ideas beyond these narrow parameters. General Idea’s AIDS (A Project for the Public Art Fund, Inc.), Derek Jarman’s Blue, Karen Finley’s Written in Sand and Felix Gonzales Torres’ Untitled (Perfect Lovers) brought a humanity to picturing AIDS/HIV.
Time brings transformation. Time has brought medical breakthroughs and better drugs. It has brought with it adherence to medication schedules that render the virus undetectable within the body, and life expectancy projected at near normality. The conversation we have about HIV/AIDS need to refocus to life not death, challenge preconceptions and address nuances of language and symbols.
During Ian Richards’ residency at HALLE 14 work has been built around extensive research into the current life experiences of HIV+ people. The artist has engaged responses through conversations with populations in Leipzig, Birmingham and gathered research from worldwide participants. The work he is currently developing in response to this will be reinserted back into the public arena – the city of Leipzig through billboards, site specific text, and distributed as postcards and tote bags to form oblique poems. Acts of disclosure from HIV+ people on fallibility, infection and the future are placed site specifically by Richards, the work public yet opaque. This space between knowing and unknowing will open up other readings; the text at the bus stop that states Please take a seat in the waiting area will build its own relationship with the world from the HIV+ man who travels from it to his clinic. Here the link between diagnosis and daily life is underlined as a routine, a continuum, recent soundworks focus on alarms and adherence and the emotions they signal. In a video the image and soundtrack from the 1986 British public information campaign Don’t Die of Ignorance is removed, leaving subtitles to describe the psychological impact of the advert that heralded an apocalyptic monolith for AIDS. The resulting text is then projected onto an amended song sheet, in which the Irving Gordon classic Unforgettable takes on new form as Undetectable. This is an act of layering that contrasts fear and warning with play and hope. In Richards’ studio you will encounter texts that disrupt, words inhabit hand towels and project onto surfaces. Outside the studio text works will occupy billboards and plaques will be placed onto benches. In the AIDS Hilfe remembrance garden plaques will be installed that vocalise relationships with deadpan humour. These works indicate an incessant presence; one that is routinely unseen and uncommented on. A subject without discussion becomes a stigma for all of us.
The British artist born in 1974, takes a multidisciplinary approach linking art, natural science and social engagement. His work inhabits diverse forms including: graphics, installation and public art. For this residency he has explored site specific interventions in public space that articulate lived experience of HIV.
Open Studio on July 23, 2015 | 6pm-9pm http://www.halle14.org/veranstaltungen.html#c4616
Text by Cathy Wade July 2015 | cathywade.co.uk
Birmingham & Leipzig, 2015
Exchange.i.e Leipzig project is in celebration of the one thousand year anniversary of Leipzig; first mentioned by the Merseburg Bishop Thietmar (975/976-1018). HALLE 14 – the not-for-profit Centre for Contemporary Art located in Leipzig’s historic cotton-spinning mill, initiated an artistic exchange programme in cooperation with Leipzig partner cities Lyon (France) and Birmingham (UK).
For the Leipzig-Birmingham exchange HALLE 14 is cooperating with WERK in partnership with Glenn Howells Architects. A direct artistic exchange will take place with a visual artist from Birmingham visiting Leipzig, and a Leipzig-based visual artist in residence for three months within Birmingham.