Radiant Presence - Intertext
Visual Aids, New York
Curated by Chris Vargas
“Such a critical attention to language is essential to our understanding of and response to AIDS as the cultural construction that it is. “ — “AIDS: Keywords” by Jan Zita Grover
The HIV virus lives within bodies, but it manifests beyond them through textual means, as personal narrative, news headlines, activist banners, public health pamphlets, and names in obituaries and on quilts, just to name a few. When used as a political tool, text attempts to articulate the experiences of people living with HIV/AIDS, to make sense of the virus and its impact on bodies and communities, and, most importantly, to demand action in response to the ongoing epidemic.
Intertext is in conversation with the image/text impulse of the original Electric Blanket slide presentation, particularly the informative “demographics, data, and slogans about AIDS worldwide” inserted between the photographers’ images. Intertitles, which are commonly associated with silent era cinema, help narrate the story when the image alone is not sufficient. In my selection of artists’ images, text is the dominant motif: in iconic protest banners and billboards, in documents of textual interventions in public and private spaces, as texts written on the body, and in collages of declarative newspaper headlines. Together, these works document, amend, contribute to, and often interrupt the evolving cultural rhetoric of HIV/AIDS.