How LUV is research, in part (part 1)

[* For the LUV site, this is part one of a set. Let’s call it the Elpenor Set. See part two, here.]

The purpose of this ‘entry’ is to introduce Ismar Tirelli Neto. I’m writing a book right now. It’s called Variations in Worldmaking. I can’t wait until it’s finished because it might be driving me crazy. It’s like birthing a set of gremlins … or so it presently seems. The book covers the span of my three durational, multi-stakeholder, rights-focused works. freeDimensional was a ten-year focus on free expression, artist safety and shelter. was a site-specific (São Paulo) five-year focus on the right to the city. And, Luv ’til it Hurts is a two-year focus on HIV and stigma. I chose to begin the book in the same time period as the two years of LUV, July 2018-2020. I thought that one process might help the other. At least in my head. They are both (art) works. I am applying a methodology for durational, multi-stakeholder, rights-focused projects that has been developed over the course of freeDimensional, and in giving support to other projects, in the making of Luv ’til it Hurts. I think the same can be said for the making of drawing on lessons learned from freeDimensional, but I was not concurrently writing criticism in that instance. Ishmar is working with me on the book, and also features in the book. We started conjuring these relations during a poetry workshop he offered at São João Farm Residency in Rio State (Brasil), and now we meet weekly for a writing class. Below is Ishmar’s ‘opener’ from an excerpt of the book in which I describe its 20 characters. 

After reading his LUV intro, I hope you’ll check out Some tenets of Elpenor thought , a text I refer to in my research. When we met in July 2019 I was already thinking about the role of ‘hero’ as it pertains to the art world. And, after we set on working together, I noticed it coming up again in a Whatsapp discussion with egosumfrank (Part 1 and Part IV) and MetaMorphineFuriosaXXX, one of our esteemed ‘coalition’ members. Therefore I mention Ismar’s work in these as well as a previous LUV piece, Character Development à la Proust


I met Ismar Tirelli Neto at São João Farm Residency in Rio State. He offered a poetry / writing workshop on his ideas around Elpenor, the youngest of Odysseus’ co-patriots. He is building up a body of thought and writing around Elpenor and other anti-heroes. We spoke of a quest for methodological understanding, and too about levels of protectiveness of text. I am not protecting the text right now. I am letting it flow rather unbounded. The numbered characters are a parameter as are the set of ‘devices’ I’ll share next. The characters and devices intersect in a matrix. I am coming up with this approach and language while also asking Ismar about his approach and the literary form it takes. We are both attracted to the Elpenor character and able to discuss it in terms of contemporary politics and a natural tendency of the art market to both crave and manufacture heroes. We ask ourselves together how does one share observations, texts, gestures, forms and/or criticism under today’s societal and market-enforced conditions on expression. In making a durational project, the idea cannot be immediately revealed. The idea is becoming, but already imagined. There is no need to rush it. The timespan is tailored for it to have enough time to fructify. This holding back as conscious effort brings ones awareness to territorialisms, competition, ranking, showboating, acceleration, pedigree-toting tendencies that can result in hero-making by default. The market needs the heroes because they are brand names, and that sells in primary and secondary art markets as well as through affiliation. Power and money are traded along these lines. It is not often that these resources can be convened and deployed for a social urgency. The market cannot both destabilize and stabilize in perfect ways. If art wants to make a radical work or gesture, it must first pass muster with the relative patrons who hold the purse strings to the semio-capital that BIFO speaks of. The same resources may be enough to resolve social ills or convene urgent conversations. It would first need to be configured or sequenced in a way that these social priorities held priority over sales and relation to market. Let’s face it: such a set-up is very rare. So, what of the ‘art hero’ role, and can it be bypassed while still offering up big ideas for the future. And to a public.

1001+ Japanese fighter pilots

I vomited tonight … earlier today.

I had taken an ecstasy pill. I may have used a couple other things as well. I’m a Taurus ‘control freak’, I’m told. So, while the idea of drugging up for going out may seem a bit careless, I also monitor my anti-depression medication, and not so long ago decided with my doctor to change my HIV meds. 

As I said in ‘we use drugs‘, or was it ‘drugs‘ .. but that yes, we do use drugs. Or so it seems. 

I once read that X was made for Japanese fighter pilots, maybe those who bombed Pearl Harbor. And, indeed tonight at Dando there were 1001+ Japanese fighter pilots. George and I were there. He’d been out before with a friend F at Zig Duplex. It was so nice to see them. I’d stayed home to rest and write. It was rather productive so I decided at about 4am to go meet the guys. I like F. but he is not so sure if I like how much he likes George. It’s ok. I’m fine with it. I actually think you are a great influence on him. So there. 

[*Dando is where we distributed the cloth hearts with our pup, W.]

There were a lot of people at the last Dando of the year, and my luv affair with Teatro Mars only grows each time I dance there. So, I found George and we drank lots of water. But I was still feeling a bit queasy even after sitting together outside in the smoking area. 

We went back in and the moment I entered the heat of the dance floor / main floor (the ‘dark room’ is/are the balconies in this old Brutalist gem) I knew I would vomit. I don’t enjoy vomiting and am not one to ‘try’ to vomit. But on occasion this is the best thing one can do with a drug is not working right. Or perhaps working (as my X did and currently at the time of writing is), but still making ya queasy. 

I ran back out and downstairs. They wanted to take my wristband as I exited, but I didn’t allow it. I knew where I wanted to vomit, but there was someone sitting there, a couple. Nope, will go further toward the gas station where the nice trans man attendant lets me wash my face afterwards (he’s helped before:). I was already feeling better when I returned to the party. I found George with G. a friend with whom we have sex and generally care about. We are all quite sweet on each other. He’s been through a rough break-up lately. We’ve been over to his house and witnessed rather careless behavior. Not just the crystal meth rationalization; garotos de programa (sex workers); the full break-down of his ex-boyfriend in his apartment all the way up to slitting of wrists and a wildly articulated ‘pain’ wall left behind by R., his ex; attracting a stalker; recent testicular injury from keeping your cock ring on too long; and the noticeable reduction of your entertainment center (selling household appliances is a pretty strong sign, dear) and cooking of Ketamine as if it’s breakfast. 

He told George when asking if we were going to the party that he’d been on a sex binge for 20 days. Given how handsome he is, this is not so hard to imagine. But then again, I would not have sex with him given some of his company and habits anymore. He would have to ‘clean it up’ a bit for me. George has different standards, and well we sometimes do and sometimes don’t agree. 

Right when I arrived to the party, I saw G. paying entrance a few people ahead of me. We gave each other a big hug. I pulled him close and whispered in his ear, George says you’ve been having a ‘marathon’ … I pulled back and asked him ‘G, is this a cry for help.’ No, no no … Im I’m .. my my… 

G, babe, I hope its like that. I do. You deserve a road trip with your mom. You deserve to recharge after a heavy year. And, babe, if you would ever like to talk outside of ‘all this’ … please come over. We miss you. 

George walked all the way back home looking for me when I must have been in the service station bathroom. He’s a really sweet guy, that one. 

Oh yeah, short shorts (blue) and a matte gray sequin top with red trim and vent back. I bought it from a designer who makes tv productions in South Africa, so it’s one of a kind. But rather hot on the dance floor. I took it off. Who am I?

Oh yeah, I remember:) I am being particularly cunty tonight .. this morning:))



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.

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, 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,, 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–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!!