drugs

We take drugs. 

A colleague of mine, Carué Contreiras gives away spices and herbs in his HIV med bottles. Artist Kairon Liu ( 劉仁凱 ) makes portraits in which he asks pill bottles to be among other memorabilia (signs of life). I luv mine. 

But actually I’m talking about party drugs and entrée to harder ones. 

George and I were packing our things as the bottle of liquid Ketamine arrived to the party. I had been coerced into chipping in on it, but didn’t plan to use the powder Gabriel would cook down from the liquid. 

Ketamine (or Key) mixed with (or used around same time of) cocaine is called CalvinKlein.

I had noticed a couple of the new guys with crystal meth pipes near the kitchen. As we prepared to leave, George asked me if I’d taken a hit. I told him no, and asked if he had. No, he said. We left. 

I am worried about meth in general. Like for people. Gay people. Country people without jobs who cook in the woods where moonshine steels used to be. Lonely people. Depressed people. 

I am renting out my apartment in NYC and I jokingly told a recent query (a gay guy I know) that he could feel right at home … except that if I got a ‘whiff’ of him smoking crystal in my place, then I’d fly up and … It was a fun/threat way to explain my limit. When we met I explained that on two occasions in NYC recently a guy had come over and not let me know he was ‘packing’ (a meth pipe) … one wanted to smoke there and the other was way far gone. On this latter occasion, he was much bigger than me and it took me a long while to get him out of the apartment. I’m not a small guy, but this scared me. It ended ok. But I doubt I’m the only one to whom that’s happened. No, for sure I’m not. Gabe just told me a similar story from here in São Paulo. 

So, let’s be clear, there ain’t no etiquette with crystal use. Like, just try to reason, and see where that get’s ya … guuuuuurrrlll!!!

Leo sent me that picture of crystal up top, also from here in São Paulo.

When I was in Mexico DF for the UNESCO talk I noticed on Grindr that the diamond emoticon was used a lot, suggesting crystal usage. T or ‘tina’ are used a lot in NYC, but this diamond is more universal. However, I think in São Paulo the diamond means other things too. Lighting Bolt is for cocaine also called ‘padê’ and ‘tk’ … like people be getting tekando, yo.  

I’ve been thinking and stacking words around on meth since that night I felt scared. Some of them are here on the black site

Both of the São Paulo guys I mention in the ‘black site’ poem told me they picked up the habit in the US. 

I saw the Sertão show at MAM here in São Paulo and a piece by Raphael Escobar that maps out the drugs used in the Center and broader São Paulo, and where to buy them (or where they were bought). This piece inspired me more than his crack pipe piece at Sesc 24 de Maio. 

Drugs. We use them. 

The ideas for Partner Tiles

The original idea for an iconic tile came from Saouf in Port Said. He imagined what it would be like to walk into a Cairo cafe and see an iconic tile on the back of a laptop. A tile that let him know (if he so desired) he could talk to this person about HIV. Later as the game took shape, Adham created a signature tile in the shape of an ‘all lines’ stylized heart. This heart carried the LUV logo at first and then became the template to share partner logos.


The LUV game is a part of Luv ’til it Hurts. The idea is based on a game played around the world called Exquisite Corpse. It’s a non-competitive game that can be played with only two people as well as a large group. The game is super easy. A new design or ‘visual work’ is made each time people play the game together. The LUV game simply offers an excuse to talk about HIV and stigma in a range of settings from museum to public space or even on the street. The game idea came up when I asked a young design time in Port Said (Egypt) to help me communicate the values and goals of Luv ’til it Hurts. The LUV game launched officially in Bogotá and Grenoble in late October; again during São Paulo’s December 1st AIDS Walk; and will soon be available online in the general period of World AIDS Day 2019.


PARTNER TILES:
On each occasion the LUV game was played–in Grenoble (French/Arabic), Bogotá (Spanish) and São Paulo (Portuguese)–LUV offered a specially-designed heart tile with the initiative’s logo inside. This could be placed in the center of the floor to get the game started. Other tiles would be placed around it. As I was making all the tiles at the same time, I also offered each location the partner tiles from other locations. From the beginning the LUV project has developed a motley crew of affiliations. We call this a coalition and it is open for joining … if you like who we are, that is. We also offer all these folks a partner tile. Having a logo is a part of doing something. Usually it is the first hologram of an idea. A serious idea can be formed in the chambers of design, we know well. An idea without a form can be helpless. So if LUV can help boost new ideas–being one itself–then that is what it wants to do. Helping a good idea to go faster is a worthwhile endeavor in and of itself. 

The Think Twice Collective based at the University of Leiden (Netherlands) got involved by bringing on 5 more languages of instructions for the LUV Game. And we’ve discussed how the LUV project might be a part of their work local to the Leiden campus in the future. In our brainstorm, there are many ways to have a campus-focused conversation on HIV and stigma. The idea of interactions that use the LUV game using all partner tiles (to date) rather than only the Luv ’til it Hurts one represents the ethos of the project and has the value of sharing initiatives from other parts of the world. While It’s not quite Abbie Hoffman (à la Steal this Book), we do wish for each and every visible, verifiable piece of the project to be used as soon as possible. So if the general brand of LUV can help another new initiative that’s great. We will soon change our (brand) look a bit, so please take it while it’s there. 

In the best of circumstances, sharing partner tiles from other locations and being able to learn more about the initiatives on our site (linking to their sites) will help to share information about and conditions experienced by other positive people. We hope there is some solidarity in this design function. It is a gesture and maybe more. 

The partner tiles are all here in this booklet:

Please use and re-use the Luv game in the most generous, unconstrained ways you can imagine. And, well, tell us about it if you have time. 

Using one ‘project’ to see another

This article is a field [luv] note to Luciérnagas and friends in Bogotá. I was there for a project by Daniel Santiago Salguero and his HIV+ peers. Fireflies, this is the word in Spanish for fireflies. 
 
Speaking of fireflies, I met some luminary folk while in Bogotá Like Jackie … as far as I know she is the only woman in Luciérnagas, well, except your costuming friend (Daniel). I would love to publish a text or reflections on process by her for the 2020 Love Positive Women holiday (Feb 1-14).  We will be putting up 14 days of woman-authored content on those days early next year. Can you ask (or work with) Jackie to make a text? Let’s do in Spanish, but also we can translate on our side. If you will agree to interview her for the site, then you can also be a bit instructive w/ your questions. Just make it about the lab process. In that way you both support Love Positive Women. 
 
When I got back from Bogotá, a group of us (somos) began meeting for drinks on Tuesday nights. The first meeting in late October or early November yielded an idea for a collective group which would first make a Sarau Transante on November 30, Saturday evening before World AIDS Day, the following Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019. I have been very excited about the game ever since it came up on my trip to Egypt in March 2019. 
 
I had thought it would be in Taiwan for a show in this period. The process took longer than expected. As long-time friends, Adham and I had a lot to discuss before getting on with the next ‘work’ project. He also has a project of the BIG variety–a museum of sorts–that I want to be involved in, a project also taking its own pace over a multi-year timeline. 
 
When I came back from Bogotá, I was planning to pretend to be LUV and invite other very active artist friends who are positive to meet for drinks and then perhaps LUV would help to amplify the outcome. LUV is a small project led by an independent artist, but it does already have some trappings (on its road toward / becoming a philanthropic device). I have been rather tired since the end of Lanchonete.org, and also having made AIDS Day / period programming in 2015 (beg. of Cidade Queer); 2016 (ending of Cidade QueerEXPLODE! and ATAQUE); 2017 (Neighborhood Museum with Amber Art & Design); 2018 (@Esponja w/ Coletivo Coletores + Colectivo Amem); and now 2019 with Somos and also a partnership with the Municipal Secretary of Human Rights for the AIDS Walk and the performance /public space where the walk ended. It changed a 1000 times, yet I’d say it all went very well. It was also possible to see what other artists were doing for AIDS Day. 
 
Daniel, I remember when I was in Bogotá in October. You already had interest from a municipal authority to do another performance or intervention on /around World AIDS Day, December 1. We haven’t been able to talk directly since then, so I don’t know if this panned out in the end. Can you share with us what happened next?
 
You probably saw the interview LUV did with Juan De La Mar last week? This is a field note to you, but also it has questions for you to answer in a follow-up piece. So, see it as advice (at times) and feel free to answer the questions indicated in orange
 
My strongest advice is to help the group become what it will be next. It takes a lot of energy to do what you did. I bet you are tired. Exhausted even. So, save your energy. Help to hold the idea together but hand it off. Now that I’ve interviewed Juan and given the aforementioned idea for Love Positive Women (and Jackie) … as well as my next idea for El Santo, I can also offer to help you take this next step. What I’m saying is that it’s obvious that some of the Laboratory group will make their own works as artists, and other Positive artists and allies will come around and want to be involved. There are members of your group who could grow to need the affiliation of the laboratory. It may even seem like a support group at times. These are not certainties, but they are the ‘good likelihoods’ if you can help make the space for it.
 
When I came back from Bogotá, I did not plan to create or co-create yet another thing. I was willing to catch some new ideas with the LUV apparatus. As we got up to the Sarau with Somos (and when I specifically didn’t want to assume or seem to assume leadership/sole ownership) it became obvious that my closest allies felt it was my ‘show’ … there were a range of signals (including direct conversation) that revealed this to me. Given that my intention was the opposite, I have asked my colleagues to share with me how they see it. I’ve asked them to help me with my general research on how people get together and do things, in a social sense. Artists and others. Activists among them. 
 
There was tension in this process. I have also experienced tension (and outright conflict) in previous AIDS Day / Periods. In some ways, I think it is bound to happen. In other ways, I want to consider how for it not to happen. It is not enjoyable. 
 
I have a lot of faults, but one thing I try to do is to apply some community organizing and publicity logic to social causes. These are useful tools for urgent situations. But I fear that the so-called ‘art world’ that we (at least, partially) act in, is not so good at identifying urgency. And by not doing so it cannot offer appropriate care. It is not a complete ‘world’ in this sense. It does not take such good care of its workers. I talk about art world concerns in Relatory Bogotá and other pieces
 
Daniel you may get an opportunity from this art world that is useful to the Luciérnagas Laboratory group. You may not decide to use it yourself, but it may still have value to your peers. You may find other ways to nurture or help with the work of Juan, Jackie et al. There will also be new people who come around inspired by your first pass on Oct 25 at the Botanical Gardens. Making space for them will be up to you as a leader of the project, because first you have to admit (or say) if the project goes on and under what conditions. 
 
So for example, let’s say that El Santo didn’t make a pin for World AIDS Day as discussed. But I saw his ‘resist’ plates on Instagram. Maybe that is the item we attempt to merchandise with the future LUV platform and shows. It can work. If El Santo agrees to something like this, we’ll need to move fast. If it’s the plates (El Santo) I would need high resolution photos very quickly. I luv the plates by the way. 
 
Just as I attempted to do when in the midst of your context, city and project, Daniel, I will meet you where you are. Let’s say you did nothing for World AIDS Day. Cool. Let’s go?
 
I must admit the idea that came up from you guys (Daniel + El Santo) was powerful: the idea that we need new representation beyond (or next) to the red flag. This could be more specific to Bogotá, or World AIDS Day, but it would seem to come from those of us newly making or having voice on HIV and stigma. So, newness is perhaps just good. So when I got back and got my hands in all these pots, one of the most ‘new’ and nice experiences was coming up with the cloth heart that mimics the heart tile in the LUV game
 
What if you took on the challenge of doing this re-branding of the red flag just because I ask you to?  What if we use the HIV2020 meeting, AIDS Day 2020, AIDS conference in San Francisco, Love Positive Women, and the ending of Luv ’til it Hurts, including the intended Schwules Museum prototype show in 2021 … all to popularize this new symbol. And what if it made money for other folks working on and thinking deeply about HIV and stigma? 
 
It could, guys:)

LUV game feedback from São Paulo + Somos Mais + AIDS Walk

About a month before the São Paulo AIDS Walk (now in its 3rd year), which was also on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2019, a group of positive folk and peers began meeting on Tuesday nights for a drink. 

The idea of a Sarau came quickly after the name of the motley group, Somos… or Somos Mais. We are visual artists, community organizers, organization makers, filmmaker, bartender, health worker, fashion designer, poets, performers and couple who make a Centro club and art space called Um55. Our first Sarau Transante was on Saturday, November 30th at Um55, the day before World AIDS Day

One idea came up that we liaise with the Municipal Secretary of Human Rights. As a member of Somos Mais, I would offer up the LUV game as a dialogue piece and lean into the performance atmosphere. We already had some of the first cloth hearts that George was making, so it was easy to engage folks to write ideas, thoughts and questions on the paper tiles but first telling them what we intended to do the following day with cloth tiles. And we gave away the first of them to people who intended including members of  Coletivo Gleba do Pêssego who screened their film ‘Bonde’ during the Sarau. 

The following day we personally distributed (offered) over 60 more hearts to walkers on the AIDS walk and at the public park where it ended. Giving the heart is an expression of love and I’m still digesting all the encounters I had when offering them and tying them around people’s necks. The game was more of a ‘display’ with big tiles at the public park where the walk ended. People wrote notes (or ‘recado do amor’ without being prompted and laid them on the large tiles in formation on the pavement. We had all walked hard, and there were beautiful performances of theatre and poetry and talks with the artists going on. No explanation was needed. 

Later that night I went to Largo do Arouche to the regular Sunday night gathering of Arouchianos and handed out a few more hearts left in pocket from earlier in the day. I wanted to especially thank Arouchianos for their work in the Center. It makes a lot of sense to me. I think we may do something special next year during the Love Positive Women holidays (Feb 1-14, 2020). The LUV heart is now added to their bundle of flags and banners that crown the small tent where a generator and mic stand sit during the lively nights when they hold court at Largo do Arouche. 

puppy luv + cloth hearts

So George and I had this idea for an intervention in the São Paulo AIDS Walk, which happens on or around World AIDS Day, December 1 (yesterday). A group of us (somos) made a poetry, film and performance sarau, Somos (Mais) Sarau Transante was on Saturday evening, November 30 to get us in the mood for the intense day of AIDS Day … the acts, walks, talks, performances and such. It’s a lot for one day. It’s a lot to pay attention to all at once. That’s why I like so much the project by artist, Jessica Whitbread called Love Positive Women … it creates another set of days (Feb 1-14) during which positive women are commemorated, interacted with … thought of. This relates to the cloth hearts. 

I was in Senegal a few times in the past years, and bought fabric for George. The first run, he made a series of scarves. The second run he made 100 cloth hearts with one fabric on front and the other on back. They have hard angles and lines like the ‘heart tile’ of the LUV Game. And the once used for ‘about’ on my homepage. The LUV Game would be played at the Sarau Transante and also the public park where the AIDS Walk ended. Parade (or bloco) walks like the one on AIDS Day are perfect situations for making a gesture. Sometimes corporates (pharmaceuticals) give away swag on these occasions and there are always drink sellers at such gatherings in São Paulo. The Senegalese cloth was laying around, and the contrasting patterns idea was already ‘had’. We didn’t really know if people from the Sarau would also attend the walk and the art performances at the walk’s end on the other side of Paulista from Baixo Augusta (beside Parque Augusta) where we began our journey. 

We decided to make 100 hearts that look like the heart tile piece (same lines), a piece designed by Adham Bakry in Port Said (Egypt)…and seems to be tattooed on one of my right hand fingers. There were a lot of people who touched these cloth hearts. You can read more about the process on the Produções Pão com Ovo page. We gave away 60+ on the walk yesterday, and then some more that night at Arouchianos meeting at Largo do Arouche. We saved some back for friends during the holidays and inspiration. 

The idea hit me so hard, it gave me a case of puppy luv. I mean I really really luv Marina Dias … she is the church. FULL STOP! It just so happened that she was spinning at DANDO party on Friday night before AIDS weekend. I told her beforehand on Insta that I’d bring her a heart. We were so late leaving the house: George was tired, and Wesley (pup) had to get his mask from a friend’s house and thusly arrived late too. We had good energy though and walked to Teatro Mars for the party. All dressed ‘down’. I opted for a kimono look, sultry, off the shoulder. George was wearing Vale’s new shorts creation, two layers of colored veil, and a shirt (I think). Wesley went as a dog. A very sexy puppy. 

We were late. So once we cleared ticket check and basic flirting with the yellow-shirted DANDO staff, I ran upstairs to dance my way to the tables. She was there …I could see her, and pushed my way through the crowd, slipping off my ‘wife beater’ under the kimono. I had brought 10 of the hearts, or was it 11 in the end? George and Wesley were each wearing 3 or 4 around their necks. They soon met me at the front of the room. I had already handed the heart to Marina. She received it with a smile and put it over half her face as a mask in order to wink. Never missing a beat. I wanted to make sure not to interrupt her. I had already placed one on the neck of a beautiful ‘image’ at the base of the DJ stand, with a piece of black veil wrapping their whole head. I think they were there, and that I practiced giving a heart to them, laying it gently like a lei… 

People started asking for them. Or looking for them. Where were they coming from. I decided organically who might best take care of the hearts, and have no regrets so far. There may have been one stamped into the condensation tracked floor of the dark room, but it was hard to tell in the dim light. And, there were many hearts already scattered about. Wesley missed the Sarau, I think our pup was all tuckered out. 

Our venue for the Sarau fell through at the last minute and we want to say a big thanks for Ze + Sid who hosted us ‘on the fly’ at their new venue, Um55. Muito muitíssimo obrigado!!

Relatory Bogotá

Bodies containing Fireflies that wander through the nocturnal jungle, emitting calls and small sparks of light for courting and to find copulation. They remind us that in the jungle there are no limits or borders. Migrating, as many do out of necessity, or as a virus does from one body into another, is a fluid process. The spectator is invited to use the space to take a break, breathe, and rethink of him/herself as an individual body, and as a gear in a collective body in constant movement. In AIDS and Its Metaphors (1987), Susan Sontag proposes a relationship with illnesses that is not of pity. Instead, she suggests approaching the illness by recognizing it as being a fundamental part of living organisms. Sontag’s intake emphasizes the necessity of confronting the illness with compassion, which implies understanding what happens to the other as if it was happening to yourself. In Survival of the Fireflies (1992), Georges Didi-Huberman proposes these light bugs as being metaphors of resilience, especially during convoluted political moments. These are some reflections that have opened up in the Luciérnagas lab of research and creation. 

+++

I landed early on Thursday, October 24, 2019 in Bogotá. It’s an overnight flight from São Paulo. The culminating performance of the Laboratório Luciérnagas would be the following night. 

I was hosted at home by Daniel Santiago Salguero, the maker of Laboratório Luciérnagas with ten of his colleagues. He stays with artists, Carlos and Alejandra. On Wednesday the following week, Carlos would prepare MIERCOLES, a lunch offering at FLORA ars + natura, the residency where both Daniel and Carlos are in residency this year. Marta Ramos was there at the same time as me offering portfolio reviews to the residents. It was nice to see several São Paulo faces during the week.

A performance by members of Laboratório Luciérnagas happened on Friday evening during a free/public night at Bogotá’s Botanical Garden. The goal of Luciérnagas was to convene a group of people for a period of six months, to think, talk, and act around themes associated with HIV / AIDS in relation to current urgent migration crises. There are approximately 10 members of the laboratory, and as far as I can tell this was only the beginning. 

I’ve had the opportunity to assist several artists in my practice. Sometimes it looks like arts administration or production and others it is explicitly dramaturgy ‘glue’ that I offer. One thing that I feel is important when visiting another artist’s project–especially one that is representative of a complex issue, demographic, identity or community–is to have permission to participate or add value, and to make sure and not distract from the intention of the work. Some pieces are easier to offer this to than others. Daniel Santiago Salguero and I spoke about ways to ‘help’ and be involved before I arrived, and I made sure I understood his intention with Laboratório Luciérnagas. I asked if I could distribute a pamphlet on the LUV game during the performance or before as guests were arriving … catching passersby too. LUV is supported by a designer in Egypt, and in the days before my trip, Daniel and I decided to incorporate some pages in the pamphlet on Laboratório Luciérnagas rather than having a separate flier or programme. We spent the first day after my arrival and some hanging out going to the printer and laying out the final guide with the design items sent by Adham. I picked them up the next day while Daniel, Jacir and Jackie made final costume adjustments at the house Daniel shares with Carlos and Alejandra. Jackie made lunch for us all before we headed to the Botanical Gardens to meet the others. 

Whenever I do something like this, I always carry a bigger question with me. I look to see how and if the arts and human rights communities locally can be of service to one another. I was told about an organization that works on HIV and related activism called Temblores. A friend introduced me to a staffer who had just been to Hong Kong for an AIDS conference. We did manage to flirt a bit on WhatsApp, but my invitation to come and share info on his work at the closing LUV meeting went unanswered.  While I do not want to read into this handsome WhatApp profile’s thinking, I can offer that this sort of ouverture (a mini gesture within a larger artistic gesture) is usually unrecognized by the human rights camp. I think in a way they (we) do not think we need something like a gesture. And, how could anything useful come out of the blue like that? In such a short time period without proper planning? It seemed like a very busy ‘art week’ in Bogotá, but also that something quite special happened on Wednesday night, October 30th at el parche. The event was called Arte/VIH/Activismo: Luv ’til it Hurts & Luciérnagas Laboratorio.

Thankfully, there was a unique overlap with the venue, el parche that offered to host the closing LUV chat, which was also like an 11th meeting for the Laboratório Luciérnagas and was nicely festive in celebration of their beautiful intervention executed in a rather nuanced way atop the open/public night programming at the Botanical Gardens. Juan, who manages el parche is also a part of LoveLazers, a group that sees its ‘assignment’ as “spreading information on forms of safer sex and drug use/consumption – and giving statements concerning stigmas and emancipation.” Earlier in the week, we met Ricardo from LigaSIDA–where Daniel first made contact with people living with HIV who became members of Laboratório Luciérnagas–and he offered to help us share the online invite. Juan shared more on the work of LoveLazers as we played the LUV game, and another Juan (who offered us a private screening of his film, ‘De Gris a POSITHIVO’) brought a colleague who runs the Clínica del Alma Invita who explained its services. We ate empanadas and drank wine. LUV notes were passed. 

Kuir Bogotá had a Halloween party the next night. Wallace, Tina and Marcela were all there from São Paulo revving folks up for a mini-carnival. São Paulo follows one around, I’ve learned:)

And, Gustavo taught me some Reggaeton moves at the party … and also something about character later that night.

*** 

Read also: Wrap love in latex – Interview with Juan De La Mar

notes on starfucking (v.1, not to be confused with ‘resource fucking’)

I do luv this term: starfucking …. star (*) fucking. While it is not used (as such) it is something that is present in the Sontag biography I read. Like people considered whether she liked to know famous people. I was once at a church party with Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, and to explain it further would be inconsequential. Conditionally, I like to know famous people. I would say.  Edmund White’s hand on my leg, but that won’t work for showing pure happenstance. A chance encounter with Kele Okereke on the LES, but I think I was considering straight fucking on that occasion. But my ex showed up and blew the scene. However, when I consider the ‘starfucking’ as I’ve heard it bandied about, I’ve decided its not necessarily a sexual thang. Once at the Tennessee Walking Horse Celebration in Shelbyville (TN), I decided to pass by Zsa Zsa Gabor’s box seat and casually ask her for an autograph. She declined. Queen. It’s ok because I got out of it what I wanted. I wanted to be close to her. I don’t know why a 14 year old gay kid wants that, but I did. In fact she obliged what I really wanted with a lick of rudeness in her curt refusal. 

I suppose there is also a thing something like ‘resource fucking’ … once at a powerful house party (of funders) this other scavenger kept breaking into my one-on-one chats with her pitch. I am an introvert and so by the second time, I wanted to fuck her back. I mean it took a lot of energy to get through the small talk. So, I fucked her back by asking if she would continue to follow me around that night and bounce ideas off the people I was resource fucking. She did not come back around and the Soros lady smiled at my style. 

It’s been a while since I’ve known about starfucking. Sometimes ‘stars’ and famous people deserve their cache. Sometimes I find that I want to know them (like over coffee) and others I just want something from them. I want them to do something specific. Right now and for the Luv ’til it Hurts project on HIV and stigma I want some powerful, wealthy and famous people to put their ‘goods’ together and make something bigger. Something that might unearth HIV-related stigmas. I’ve been meaning to write this first note on starfucking for a while, but it occurred to me this week I should do it sooner than later. It is not a note to brag about the ability to code shift, or to get close to known entities. I’m a conditional starfucker regardless of whether I’m making an art project or operating individually. I make rights-focused, durational, multi-stakeholder works for which Luv ’til it Hurts is an example. Given that I’m HIV+ and have experienced some of these HIV-related stigmas firsthand, I decided to deploy the personal skill of starfucking toward a project goal: a LUV Fund.

Luv ’til it Hurts imagines faster resources for HIV-related activism. With serious questions about art-making, stigma and political economy, the two-year discussion is geared-up to leave behind a business plan for unearthing HIV-related stigmas. It starts out as a simple game. Made by artists and others. And, most likely for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. As a Tennesse-boy it occurred to me I should ‘look locally’ a bit before attempting to ‘reach’ Sir Elton. OK, I will. But this is because it is good strategy. Speaking of strategy I’ve been shopping around for a graphic artist to take on ACT II, which is a publication that reveals the whole starfucking gameplan. I admit, I’ve been starfucking a lil in order to find the right artist. I think I may have slam-dunked it (or maybe it was an ‘alley oop’), but I won’t say who I’m fucking yet. That’s because one has a bespoke plan for reaching each star one wishes to know. I have received a hint that my graphic artist would like one-on-one dialogue for now, and so I respect that by not naming said artist here. This graphic output will land on February 14, 2020, the North’s valentines day and the last day of the global holiday, Love Positive Women. So, eventually you will know of whom I speak.

 I admit that I’ve begun using a little of this starfucking logic in my previous project, Lanchonete.org, and maybe its working. But what I’ve seen on both occasions of the graphic artist and an architect I’m trying to reach with Lanchonete.org–and maybe I learned this from the interrupter figure at the aforementioned (money) house party–is that the gatekeepers haven’t heard of starfucking and they don’t easily yield their positions. For one they don’t want to be displaced. If they are idea people on how to use the money and power one is aiming at, they will need to be brought on board at some time, or perhaps removed as sentinel. Sometimes they simply freeze in the spotlight of a new idea, and this is not always a bad thing. ‘Removal’ as I call it, can also be simply moving around them. Getting into the ‘idea crack’ they are not filling. You must admit to yourself however if knowing personally the star is essential to the idea. It usually isn’t if played right. So, considering embarrassment is normal. But you may also consider that you will never meet the star you are fucking. But that you may fuck them nonetheless.

The idea of starfucking is not implicitly rude, and rudeness is not necessary in order to be a professional, successful starfucker. Nope, not at all. 

What you are doing is getting their attention. However you need to:)

It’s sorta like genderfucking or queering a space … but with stars and comets and asteroids involved:$)

So there are some categories: those you want to know personally (because you need to work on something together) and those who you don’t need to know personally; there are ones whose identity is kept a secret for a while (it’s a negotiation) and those who are named boldly. Sometimes naming them is a strategy, and you never have to get their attention. I saw Elton in a great comedy drug film on a flight to Bogotá where the LUV game was launched recently. He is brilliant. It is obvious he’s having fun, and he is hilarious too. The way he tricked those future dogs is awesomeeeeeeeeeee! Dollie Parton I’ve seen you partner up with Ke$ha and Reese Witherspoon lately. You are divine. Queen. Zsa Zsa ain’t got nothing on you. You are the Tennessee home state queen, and I bow down. I genuflect exponentially my queen!!

A few months back, I suggested to you on the Dollywood Foundation Facebook page … a social media, I’m told. I suggested you follow the Buffet principle and pre-donate or -guarantee a rather large sum of money to the Elton John AIDS Foundation. Your position may be to say ‘no’ and tell me rather what you want to do. I have also offered to use a special Nigerian money-doubling trick I learned while doing Nollywood research in Llagos (Surulere) and Enugu (where I stayed with the pastor I met through the Club of Rome and dear dear Ndidi). I’ve boasted that I can make $10 million look like $20 million. Well, ya gotta give me a shot, my queen:) Ms Parton, did you know that my first international job, the one I took after minoring in German at David Lipscomb University (Nashville)? I worked for the TN Dept of Tourism as an ‘agent’ in Germany. Well, at first I honed my German care-taking 6 children and 6 pets in Heppenheim as aupair. Ever had a two-year old set of twins be all cute and bilingual when saying (in unison) ‘fuck you’? I went on to Bielefeld to an office where I would represent TN tourism. Mostly I’d answer the phone in a southern twang and be sent out to truck driver conferences to push country music-related tourism to TN. Dolly, you and Don Williams are big big in that demographic. I also noticed that you, Kenny and Don are well-known in various corners of Africa whilst performing my next career incarnation as an aid worker. This is when I began my HIV-related work. When I was in my 20s some two and half decades ago. I contracted HIV about five-years ago in São Paulo.

I’m super busy with the World AIDS Day activities we are making locally in São Paulo. We are making these cloth hearts, and I’ll save you one. May we speak in December sometime after December 1st. I’ll come home to TN if you need. Lately things have been tense at home in Bradyville. My parents have handled the news of my HIV pretty ok. I’m not so sure about my brother. It only came out in a fight with him, so I need to work on that bit. My mom is cute. We all drink those out of these 10 ounce Dr. Peppers or Sundrops and leave the remainder in the fridge. I noticed my mom has started labeling mine with a black sharpie. It gave us the chance to speak about communicability of HIV, but it really wasn’t so cute. Maybe we can Skype? You and me. I’m about to watch Islands in the Stream, the live version. I need to talk to you!!

Character Development à la Proust

[*I totally misunderstood what you wanted me to do with the ‘Proust Questionnaire’ and just answered the original. I get it now … you’re gonna ask me these questions in a new fresh way. Is that it? Go ahead, and we’ll link my new fresh answers here!]

hey ego sum frank (aka Dr. Prof. ego sum frank), 

I want to commend you on your new pursuit. While I’ve not yet visited the offices of MetaMorphineMachineFuriosaXXX, I imagine it to be a hybrid pharmacy and yarn shop. I even heard you all make quilts there. But before I would normally digress, let me answer these 35 questions that Proust used to ‘size up’ a character. I would like to assume the character of the difficult artist. I suppose this is somehow the real me; I’ve been called it with great regularity since I began the Luv ’til it Hurts project just over a year ago. I am starting to believe it, and therefore I’m ready to answer this particular MMMFXXX inquest. 


Proust doesn’t really float my boat, but I would like to consider his answer to the first question (in both 1890 and 1896) as I begin:

Taken from: Proust Questionnaire
  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? Equilibrium. Not explaining to capital ‘C’ curators what broad small ‘c’ curatorship can be. The phrase ‘curatorial futures’ just happened, but I’m pretty sure it was an early morning coffee fart. 
  2. What is your greatest fear? That I’ll never get a chance to tell you what I’m working on. That perhaps I’m wrong about what art is and I’ve fooled myself, but not you. You have stopped listening and I don’t know it yet. Abandonment.
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? This rambling. The voices that all want to be heard at once or with slight hierarchy. I take some drugs to correct it though, don’t worry.
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Their piss poor attention spans. 
  5. Which living person do you most admire? I think Robert Wilson, but only if he responds to my request in the way I want him to. My mother and father both trump Bob, but I struggle to find ways to show this admiration to them, and suppose perhaps that it is a different emotion. The name of which will come to me when I learn how to communicate better. 
  6. What is your greatest extravagance? Living between NYC and São Paulo. The things I get to do having a generation of middle class-ness behind me. 
  7. What is your current state of mind? I have a drug-addled mind. I take two pills a day for HIV and another for chronic depression. However I have proof (oral history) of my difficultness pre-dating my drug dependencies. 
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Straightforwardness.
  9. On what occasion do you lie? I omit lots of information. Since people usually like it when I stop talking, this is just like quietening one or two voices down to a level that you are speaking with a two-dimensional me. I omit the details of having my iPhone stolen when my mom sees that I ordered a new one on our family plan’s insurance. But then when she masks her care for me with an ostensible concern over the phone hardware, I embellish the muggings to show her a glint of danger and work her ‘guilt bone’ for mis-applying her sympathies (to my phone instead of me) in the first place. I think on average I lie slightly more than the national index suggests. But I do not consider myself an outlier. 
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? I wish I could get a tan just once in my life. 
  11. Which living person do you most despise? Heidegger has come back to prove a point with Trump and Bolsonaro. I want him to die again. I want Hannah Arendt and Marielle Franco to come back to life in his place. 
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man? Most male qualities repulse me (even in myself); I’ve known that I’m a lesbian for much longer than I’ve been arguing with them. 
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman? Tina Turner is from West Tennessee and Dolly Parton is from East Tennessee. I am from middle Tennessee. Motherhood. I like my mom too too much! I have a joke sometimes I set up by asking her if she knows how I became gay. I’ve already told you the punchline earlier in my answer. 
  14.  Which words or phrases do you most overuse? I want. 
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? I will not answer this question. It is a trap. Fuck you, Marcel Proust.
  16. When and where were you happiest? I imagine myself to have been an avid lap swimmer in the womb. Yesterday at a poetry reading. That’s my answer. Brooklyn. Now. 
  17. Which talent would you most like to have? I would love to have extreme right-hand dexterity on an old fashioned desk calculator. I would love to have races and finish my taxes. I would use this dexterity for many more things. 
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I have this wart on my hand that no treatment seems to move. Take it away now, please.
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Survival.
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? I would want to be Bruno Latour’s sense of humor. Full stop. 
  21. Where would you most like to live? São Paulo and NYC, with frequent trips to Cairo and Nashville. 
  22. What is your most treasured possession? My wedding ring (the first one). I also like a horseshoe ring my dad wears, but I don’t want to inherit it ever. 
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Abandonment… 
  24. What is your favorite occupation? Making things. Luv and otherwise:)
  25. What is your most marked characteristic? A subtle potbelly that situates me somewhere between bear and cub. Bruce Willis told me how sexy it was in Pulp Fiction. 
  26. What do you most value in your friends? Loyalty and long-term loyalty. 
  27. Who are your favorite writers? Kafka, Lispector, Kadare, Soyinka, Winterson, Farah. Gonna read Ocean Vuong now that he’s a MacArthur genius. 
  28. Who is your hero of fiction? Elpenor, full stop. I’m still learning the why for. I need more tutelage, Ismar Tirelli Neto. 
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with? Howard Zinn.
  30. Who are your heroes in real life? I respect Glenn Greenwald’s work, but he is not my hero. The last Berlin Biennale, Zé Celso’s Roda Viva, and various other contemporary loudspeakers repeat the Tina Turner line and suggest ‘We Don’t Need Another Hero’ … I don’t not find an easy answer here. But because the theme is also HIV somehow, I’m gonna say South African Justice Edwin Cameron. I have some friends in Egypt who I also feel ‘hero-y’ about but whom I won’t name. 
  31. What are your favorite names? Lanier. I share middle names with Tennessee Williams. I dig it righteously. 
  32. What is it that you most dislike? Giving up. 
  33. What is your greatest regret? Not being in conversation with my former wife.
  34. How would you like to die? I would like to know my assassin, and get to advise him/her/they on how to do it. 
  35. What is your motto? Encouraging the unadvisable since 1973.

Proust’s Questionnaire taken from “35 Questions To Ask Your Characters From Marcel Proust”

HIV+ in São Paulo

You’ve all heard about the gay content shows being cancelled or censored all over Brasil. Maybe you heard of the Sexualities show at MASP a couple years back as well. MASP is a big institution. It gets big-named curators. And a lot of attention. 


Just now there is a theatre piece on HIV being censored in São Paulo. 

I came up with the Queer City (or Cidade Queer) a project within Lanchonete.org as a response to contracting HIV in São Paulo a few years before. I am happy with how Cidade Queer performed as a project. During its span in 2015/16, research would have been done for the forthcoming Sexualities show at MASP. In 2017 we were still making programming with a strong Canadian partner. I had a part-time job with that organization, resulting from a ten-year grant-receiving relationship during which I also served as creative director to some major foundation programs. I deployed a 20-year global cultural network to each program I took on for the Canadian organization. I forgot my HIV meds on one of my many international trips in 2017 working for the foundation. I asked for a ‘cost of living allowance’ /COLA-related increase on my next contract near the end of 2017. It was related to the cost of international travel insurance that would cover medication replacement. I was pouting about this once over dinner with a friend, an HIV+ medical doctor. He responded that he’d lost his medical post the week after he presented ideas on a panel at the Queer City finale, an international ball and awareness-raising day on a range of ‘queer’ issues. In that I understood that I was not alone. I recently got to go to Egypt and on way back met an exiled Egyptian activist living with his partner in Paris. He raised his voice about the government stalling his HIV meds, and he was beaten up one night in his apartment. Other serious danger signals happened: threats. They left to Paris and began advocacy work on the situation in Egypt and Middle East. I spoke to a Mexican artist who moved to Berlin after falling blind due to lack of access to HIV meds. These stories pile up as I survey my peers on their regions and conditions in preparation for Luv ’til it Hurts. 


Back around the end of Queer City and its ATAQUE ball in September 2016, I gave an interview to Brazilian Elle on the São Paulo Ballroom and Voguing scene. I specifically asked them to mention my HIV status. I specifically asked the journalist to state that I contracted HIV in São Paulo. And, this was the catalyst for creating and producing the programme. When I read the article this detail had been excluded. Then sometime in the same 2017 period was the Sexualities show at MASP until early 2018. I asked a Mexican magazine if it wanted a review, given that the show had a Mexican curator. The resulting review (after my two visits to the show) was declined. I pitched again to a Polish, US and another thematic ‘art leaks’ online journal. There was something I was doing in my rejected article akin to concrete poetry. I stated over and over throughout the article that I contracted HIV in São Paulo in the previous few years. I talked about gay white male privilege. I asked the publication curator why our research output, Queer City: A Reader made with Publication Studio São Paulo) hadn’t been considered for the publication table. The one that secures publications with fishing line. I asked in my article why the word or acronym HIV did not appear much (or at all, I think). A Colombian artist asked me in NYC how the show was, and I told him I hated it. Or rather that I had a beef with it I explained in a journal article. He told me the curator wouldn’t like that. I think he meant the Mexican one. 

In the article I attempt to share some of the early signs of Brazil’s cultural revolution. I share the article (see below) with you today in protest of the theatre piece’s censorship. Caixa Cultural, you have a responsibility to help a closing society stay open at the cultural bridge-points, these ‘cultural’ spaces that you fund through public (Lei Rouanet and other channels) tax-relief incentivized funds. Please do your part to keep HIV in an open conversation. Some of the anecdotes I speak of in this crônica are related to stigma. Something that is often invisible, dormant, and awaiting ‘fresh air’ to displace and evolve society’s sensibilities. One of the ways to offer that fresh air to HIV-related stigma is an open conversation. I contracted HIV in São Paulo just a few years ago, and I am your public. 

As a reaction and way-to-process my own feelings about HIV, I created the Luv ’til it Hurts project. the very first event was an organic public event in Philadelphia with Amber Art & Design, a public art and social justice-focused collective. In fact Amber Art visited São Paulo as residents to Lanchonete.org, during which time the project gained a ‘Neighborhood Museum’ concept and space (an apartment above the lunch counter) for the next year of programming. On May 24, 2018 Luv ’til it Hurts was supposed to have its open meeting / planning discussion at beginning of two-year process) at the Strawberry Mansion, a community space for which Amber Art & Design was commissioned to make programming. As the date for the event approached an Amber member told me that there was some opposition to an HIV-themed event at the Strawberry Mansion site. That we would like have the event at Amber’s studio instead. It was a beautiful community meal with people traveling from NYC. Some of us gathered at an Amber member’s house the night before, and a leader from the HIV activism world in NYC cooked food for both dinner and the next day’s community lunch. Others came down the morning of. From memory there was a range of folks from Philly, a member of a NYC-based architectural / public space collective, a medical doctor/professor visiting the NYC AIDS Institute from the University of São Paulo, Taiwanese artist Kairon Liu, Sebastien the co-founder of Residency Unlimited and now RiVET, an independent journalist and others. At the end of the day we have some ice cream and beer on porch of the Strawberry Mansion. 


While we had not had the whole day event there, there was some triumph in spending the last hours there before some of us took the bus back to NYC. Later, on August 20th we had another community meeting on the occasion of Black Pride and visiting members of House of Zion Brazil and Coletivo Amem (São Paulo) hosted by Residency Unlimited. Something I want to remember for a future crônica.


I contracted HIV in São Paulo just a few years ago, and I am your public. 

***


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