1st ‘About’ page: A discussion to be accountable to

A discussion to be accountable to …

Luv ’til it Hurts is about HIV and stigma.

Discussion, campaign, mechanism, agency.

All of these words describe the vision for Luv ‘til it Hurts. Yet, if it becomes nothing more than a discussion to be accountable to, then it has succeeded.

It should have this accountability first and foremost. And, thereby, remember the work (art and otherwise) that came before it.

As a porous container, it aspires to ‘hold’ people together long enough for essential introductions and exchange of ideas.

Curating, Healthcare, Cultural Movements, New Support Strategies. etc.

Whoever enters this ‘space’ may stick around and help give it shape over a two-year period. ‘Taking responsibility’ is up for grabs.

As a campaign (simply meaning the cacophony of multiple voices) it will generate resources. They will be used to maintain the container and will be shared strategically. Luv lasts two years because it is a guided experiment in organizational form that aspires to become a robust support mechanism working for and with HIV+ artists and their peers from both within and outside the arts.

It is the third durational, rights-themed, multi-stakeholder project launched by Todd Lanier Lester. Because it follows a loose ‘methodology’ it is also intended as a form of research, something its authors hope will become clearer over time. At the very least, it will report back at the end of each of four six-month quarters. Please stay tuned.

Think Twice Questions for Luv

My name is Todd Lanier Lester and I started the project, Luv ‘til it Hurts, a two-year project on HIV & stigma. The Think Twice Collective has agreed to join the LUV ‘coalition’ … I’ll explain what that is along the way, but just wanted to say thanks for being in an open-ended conversation with me. The last project I co-made, Lanchonete.org was a five-year investigation of the right to the city in São Paulo, and also took a collective form. I enjoy the pace and other characteristics of collective decision-making. freeDimensional, a 10-year project on free expression and artist shelter was the first of a three-project set that have spanned almost 20 years. What connects the three projects is that they are all durational, rights-focused and open to multiple stakeholders. 

I really appreciate the questions Think Twice came up with and appreciate your attention to my project. 

Paula Nishijima (a Think Twice member) and I met in Milano at ENGAGE, a Public School for Social Engagement in Artistic Research hosted in October 2017 by Via Farini. Paula is Brazilian and I live in Brazil, so we started there. That was followed by a Skype chat with the group in Leiden (Netherlands), and an ensuing discussion about our ‘projects’ being in dialogue. I’d like to dive into the questions:

1- What is “Luv ’til it Hurts”? Why did you start it? 

LUV is a two-year project on HIV and stigma. In the FEATURES section entitled Field Notes, I discuss some of the parameters I apply for the making of a durational, rights-focused, multi-stakeholder work. I share the ups and downs of this style of ‘making’, and try to point to ‘spots’ of learning from both my previous projects and those of other artists. I plan to keep this section going throughout the two years. In fact, these are the field notes for a book I’m writing that focuses on methodology and looks at a twenty-year period of such art making. It’s a different and related project I’m working on as I shift more into writing. I first presented the ‘hinge’ in my work between LUV and some research writing I’ve embarked upon at the Economy and Society Summer School, a weeklong doctoral symposium co-hosted by University College Cork and the Waterford Institute of Technology, bringing together scholars from diverse disciplines to discuss fresh perspectives on ‘the economy’; the market, the state, production, consumption, redistribution, value, money, work, commodities, poverty, welfare, inequality. 

[*Paula, when we met in 2017, Lanchonete.org was not quite over yet (and still isn’t:). I was already rabidly note-taking for the book, but probably didn’t yet know LUV was going to be a project in this series. I have had the idea for an HIV-related project ever since I contracted HIV in São Paulo some five years ago. In Milan I showed the Queer City film, representing an important ‘episode’ of Lanchonete.org, and actually the most rhizomatically robust of the various sub-projects/foci that comprise the five-year research platform of Lanchonete.org on the right to the city. In fact, Queer City continues still in various forms. Queer City was the way I began experimenting with HIV themes in the hybrid artistic director/curator/ administrator/producer role I assume for durational projects that I set off and forecast end dates. I proposed Queer City ‘into’ Lanchonete.org just as any of the multiple stakeholders could propose and develop ideas into action. When I use the words ‘producer’ and ‘action’ herewith, I’m referring to Walter Benjamin’s 1934 address at the Institute for the Study of Fascism (Paris), The Author as Producer.]

I can jokingly say that I’m tired of making multi-stakeholder projects. But I also plan to have fun with the last one, Luv ‘til it Hurts. What I mean is that I plan to use some of the methods and tactics from the first two projects in order to lean-down bureaucratically and shorten (to two years) the LUV project … rather abstractly. But at the same time, LUV is the most personal of the three projects I refer to here. I started it because I’m HIV+. I started it because it is personal. But, too, I believe it can have a ‘benefit’ (as such) on a macro level. 

2- How did LTIH start? 

In February of 2018 I received an unsolicited R&D grant. I had mentioned to a colleague in philanthropy that I planned to make a project, but I didn’t say what it was. This was an exciting encouragement, and frankly the first time in my 20-year practice that I have received money in advance to work on a project. That money was used for making a website and paying people. Most of the money was redistributed as re-grants to initiatives such as Humans as Hosts, Coletivo Amem, the Houses of Zion and LaBeija, participation in the 2019 holiday Love Positive Women (a project by artist, Jessica Lynn Whitbread), creation of the LUV game with a team of Egyptian designers, etc. In discussion with Taiwanese artist, Kairon Liu we decided to make a limited edition postcard set from his Humans as Hosts project, which he carried to the 2018 International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam. In a very useful way, this served to launch the two-year period of the project, and it therefore ends around the time of the next international AIDS conferences in 2020 in Mexico DF and San Francisco

I mention above (when referring to Queer City) that I have the prerogative to create/direct/lead a portion of the LUV project and invite others to participate. This includes corresponding with others and writing for/on the site; designing a game with other people; collaborative events; media partnership; playing the new game together; and sharing in the construction (um, conjuring) of the ‘end game’ of the project, which will be an artist-led, philanthropic device offered to the Elton John AIDS Foundation

At the same time, the projects have historically been flexible enough to accommodate the ideation and leadership of other artists, participants or stakeholders. Looking back at freeDimensional, somewhere around the midpoint, artist Sidd Joag was hired to direct the organization. One of the first things he did was to create new schematics for how freeDimensional explained how danger can affect global artists and how the project addressed this urgency. You can see visualizations in the 2011 Artist Residencies & Conflict Areas event publication, and they carried forward to illustrate our most comprehensive output (an artist safety guide) as a project, the freeDimensional AdvoKIT (download). For Lanchonete.org, there were similar ‘episodes’ led by other participants. For example, Zona da Mata is a project by artist Rodrigo Bueno who participated in one specific way focused on the environment. Another way to see this is that Lanchonete.org participated in Rodrigo’s project for the year, 2016. And, Episódio Haiti was led by Raphael Daibert who participated in all the activities of Lanchonete.org, having helped to launch the project from the beginning. This was natural as his focus is on migrations.

Here you asked me how it started and I’m about to tell you how it will end. One is that we might be able to say something about the philanthropic device by the time of the AIDS conferences. In fact, I’m working on a graphic zine with artist Niki Singleton that should be ready by February 14, Valentine’s Day 2020. By that time we will amp up our plan to reach Elton, and in the meantime someone will hopefully ‘steal this idea’ and run with it. What I’m saying is that the duration, start and end dates are both important and somewhat arbitrary. The projects don’t stop on a dime. And, if they are launched well–at least inter-planetarily or intergalactically–they keep advancing even after the end date. These ‘durations’ allow for a form of accountability to the stakeholders, communities and demographics that the projects include and address. 

3- Why is it an “interplanetary” project? and why “galactic”?

I am working with an old friend. Here is where I brag on a buddy, Adham Bakry. He is mentioned in this article, Street Art Illuminates Egypt’s Lingering Problems. Check him out. When freeDimensional was moving around (it had mobile desks for a year each in ‘residency’ in the Middle East and Cairo specifically at the Townhouse Gallery and South America via a residency at Casa das Caldeiras in São Paulo) I met Adham and he did some of the original design work for freeDimensional in Cairo, joining the team for the remainder of the project. He then drew the first schematic for me when dreaming up Lanchonete.org.  There was a lot going on in both regions at the time in residency field, and these two cities provided a look into the regions. Around that time I led the writing of desk studies on residency practice in each region for some partners whose names I forget. I should find those two documents for my site:)

The idea for Lanchonete.org came, of course during my freeDimensional residency in 2008 at Casa das Caldeiras. My friend Joel Borges who created TodoDomingo at Casa das Caldeiras (as well as its international residency and various community programs) both welcomed me on that 2008 residency and has been a part of the ideation for Lanchonete.org from the beginning. He serves as the President of the Associação Espaço Cultural Lanchonete (the cultural association/ entity under Brazilian law) until now.

So for one, I’m working with partners and friends who have been stakeholders to past projects. I’m asking them to perform in certain ways, perhaps building on past actions. I raise money to pay them:) I’ve asked them to help guide me … to help me get the maximum out of the idea based on how we know how to work together. 

Adham and I know how to make interplanetary and intergalactic projects. I had to urge him to give me first designs early and not perfect them. I wanted it a little raw. But too we agreed on a face-to-face design session that was this past March. I would go to Egypt (Port Said) and see into his current project, a popular heritage museum with a revolutionary mentality. Pedagogy and learning and local change. I would engage his project at the level I wanted him to engage mine. We would eat fish together at the Suez Canal and take our bikes on the ferry to Asia. I would understand what he’s going through, and he would understand the same in me. We would care for each other at that basic level. We would reconnect a little before making work together. We would break bread… to go with the fish. I would meet his wonderful colleagues on the museum project and revive my interest in the Arabic language. 

In the richness of ideas that comprised those days in Port Said and Cairo, an idea sprung up for a game. It came from Saif, a 23-year old guy from Port Said, but with Cairo-savvy. He said, why not model it after Exquisite Corpse, a game I’ve come to learn is played all over the world … sometimes with image continuation and others with words. Before I even understood what he meant, he gave me the scenario of going into a Cairo cafe and seeing an iconic sticker/tile on the back of a laptop, and it referencing the LUV project, or game as it were. That one would know that the person with the laptop was cool with HIV .. or something like that. You all at Think Twice are thinking about language. I was in Port Said in a café w/ Saif, Adham and others. I was acting a little queer. I had black fingernails. The manager turned off the radio, and waited for us to leave. So, Saif is not wrong to consider a ‘safe’ way to play, as such…

Or, another answer as question: Don’t you think there are enough ‘global’ things, organizations and such? If what constitutes art can sometimes be called an art world, shouldn’t we perhaps board the first spaceship out?

4- What is the aim of the “coalition”?  

The coalition is for doing exactly what we are doing. For having a discussion. You’ve asked me some questions that find me in a methodological and rather light mood. I’m heading to NYC soon to launch a publication on Artist Safety Hosting and it’s been a throw-back to some earlier ideas. The coalition is for ‘doing something’, and I’d really like for folks involved to understand what I want to do with the philanthropic device, and perhaps lend a hand. But at the very least they should play the game with us. 

5- How are you featuring this “gamification” in your work?  

Saif and I jammed on the game idea sitting in a circle of ten guys on the floor drinking the booze Adham had gotten at the airport using my ticket stub for duty free. We watched videos and smoked hash. Some of us did. I laughed at what, in Arabic, made them laugh. We spent time together. By the next day in the office Adham was ‘on it’ .. he doesn’t like the virtual side of things (preferring the street stencil), so he wasn’t thinking anonymous, multiplayer (online), but rather the logic of the game and design of the tiles. What might become iconic and end up on the back of a laptop. In Cairo or New Delhi in a cafe. Adham poo-poos the idea of a virtual game, while introducing me to ‘his game guy’ Sanjay in New Delhi, saying ‘he’s the one who can do that for you … I’m doing the first part.’

Here’s the design challenge I posed to Adham and his team. I was already almost sure I would treat the LUV project in three acts, and that Adham’s (and the ensuing game) would be ACT I. I had come to Port Said to get some work done, big picture work. The challenge:

I’m making a philanthropic device in the midst of the LUV project, which should also be a discussion. We should talk about what we need, and what we can do / offer. We should make a new ‘device’ to help out. On HIV and stigma. As artists. And/or poz people. 

HIV is personal. By March I was already 9+ months into the project. I told Adham’s team that I would pull back on broad stakeholder outreach. I would seek out partners from past projects, but not specific to HIV ideas and work. I would reconfigure a team or ‘agency’ for the purpose of getting to the end(game), the device. I can say better later how Acts II and III move the process along. 

I told Adham’s team that I needed an ‘activity’, something to do with a public. Something that would enlist stakeholders in a way I’d not tried before, one in which I did not ‘front’ each conversation. The activity would allow me to ‘deploy’ the evolving process of device-making into various contexts (art world and non). It should be good. It should look nice. It should open up online, social media and PR opportunities through its application. It should stand alone. It should be fun. A game. 

It should be something so simple (perhaps more so than the philanthropic device that takes a whole two years to make) that it would open up countless new discussions that cannot be generated outside discussion. 

OK, so we (Paula N. and I) talked, and I asked if Think Twice would be interested in helping to launch the game. The game is ready. You can get the gist of it in Thank you to Lois Weaver (ample version), and if you all are game, I’ll get you a game pack in the coming weeks. We already know that it launches in Grenoble on October 25th in French and Arabic, and hopefully Bogotá on the same day with Daniel Santiago’s project, Luciérnagas. So, I’m sure we can find a unique way to engage between LUV and Think Twice in this general timeframe and direction. It could take the format we find most useful. It could work/aim toward your potential meeting next Spring on the topic of language. 

There are lots of ‘language’ angles in the project. 

I think that if you give me the ‘go ahead’, I’ll consider how to communicate the game to Think Twice as we are developing ‘packets’ for Grenoble and Bogotá, so relatively soon. We are launching the game online on this year’s World AIDS Day, December 1. As well. Think Twice and the coalition can be a part of that. Somehow. The game changes as the ACT progresses, so we should really just play, and you’ll see. 

6- What is action research and how is it developed and/or materialised in the project? 

Oh gosh, what is algebra?  I’m kidding. I was reading an article the other day that called ‘artistic research’ a discipline, area and method all in the same article without differentiating usage. Action research is perhaps related to grounded theory or various participatory methods. I figure phenomenology is a part of it. I am working on a book and PhD at the same time. The book is called Variations in Worldmaking. The PhD is in Sociology. My advisor, Maggie O’Neill has experience in action research. With all that in the ‘soup pot’, I decided to ask Maggie if she could help me tease out characteristics of my methodology, the methods I practice with, by keeping an eye on the LUV project. I produce writing on the overall book, but she knows that until the end of the two-year period (until July 2020) I have to give special attention to the final project in the three-part series. I let her know when I post new field notes online. But it is my responsibility to pull those into the research I’m working on. It is my design to have the final project, action-like hinge with the research that uses the timeframe of the three projects taken together, as well as their rights-focused themes and those taken up by other artists interviewed for the research. What a mouthful.

7- What are your other projects you inspired yourselves to when you founded LTIH? 

The artists who got together in various ways like the Treatment Action Campaign, ACT UP, VisualAIDS and many other activist and artist-led (or fully included) endeavors. I want to give a part of myself to help out. I want to do it in a way that invites others to join me. Something like that. I think at a later stage in our discussion I’ll be able to share the short list of artists I’m interviewing for the Variations book. That would be another way to answer. 

8- what’s the difference between you and these projects? 

Not much. That’s good and bad. I have a playful writing project coming called El Mejor Karate. It will have a site. It will have some things to say about the ‘splitting’ we do and don’t do as artists when we make immersive projects. Adham is involved in it. It’s coming soon. The website will be www.tllester.info/elmejorkarate someday soon. 

9- How does this ‘personal aspect’ you mention influence the methodology or the way how you engage the stakeholders in relation to the previous two projects?

Up above I mentioned the design challenge I went to Adham and team with. Working on HIV elicits emotions amongst the artists and activists who share their stories. I want to think that multiple stories can be told through LUV. In the beginning however, I ran at it too hard. I got bruised by some of the initial engagements. In some of my field notes, I speak about this ‘emotional heat’ that I see as both essential but also to be ‘handled with care’. If this seems vague, please make sure to read the Benjamin text I’ve mentioned above. I think it is fair to say that the first two projects hold themes that affect me but don’t infect me. That’s a bit crass I suppose. I care about artist housing and safe haven, and would want it if I needed it (freeDimensional). I love cities and living in them. I pretend to live between NYC and São Paulo after all. To have my eyes open (in these two places and others I travel to) is to be in a discussion on the right to the city. But for LUV I need some space. If it gets too hot for me, I don’t produce. Ask me more, and I’ll be explicit about what I mean. The ‘art world’ (as such) is not a place that automatically gives care. I think one needs to have support to make a project that touches on the ‘autobiographical’ … I chose sociology for its ability to accommodate personal narrative. 

10- What would you say is the necessary quality, in order to be able to contribute in the LTIH projects? 

Help me make some noise. Ask hard /nice questions like these. Let’s find a discursive way to launch the game together in your context. I travel to the Netherlands a lot. I’ve spoken at Leiden once. In the process of my research in Cork, we are engaging the gallery at the university. When I was last in Cork (second city in Ireland), I was on Grindr and someone thanked me for sharing my HIV status. When I talk to my colleagues in Cork (the ones involved with my research), I ask them, ‘what do we need here?’ There is a conversation to be had in Cork, Ireland. There is a conversation to be had in Leiden, Netherlands. Please oh, please do not let us keep this at the treetops of discussion. With an old colleague I’m discussing how the game travels with a theatre piece around Zimbabwe. Let me discuss now with you, new colleagues how the game plays out in your context. 

11- How can interested people contribute to the project and collaborate with LTIH?

Make LUV.

The Gathering

Company – Self Portrait
1998, silver gelatin print, 20×16 inches


In “A Conversation with Eric Rhein,” an interview on this website, Eric was asked about some writing he’d done: a text which corresponds with many of the themes in his recent exhibition, Lifelines. Eric followed-up with this memoir, written in 1998, and we are happy that he’s shared it with us here.

The Gathering
by Eric Rhein

        I’ve been pushed back from the borders of death, redeemed to life—escorted by the same spirits who comforted me on the precipice of demise. I’ve been awakened from a turbulent dream, or so it seems; awakened by a prince, with a pharmaceutical kiss.

        I had aged prematurely—ravaged through the course of ten years with H.I.V. When testing positive, my 27-year-old body was still that of a boy, fresh from college; then it became that of an old man, leapfrogging adulthood to decay. Now, having been restored to health, I wear a man’s body that I’d lost sight of. It’s strangely unfamiliar.

        The spirits of my Kentucky ancestors are with me. Their wisdom—imbibed from only seemingly simpler lives and times—resonate in my devotion to the autumn leaves that I revere as tributes to fallen friends.

        My Granny Corinne said the autumn leaves wear brilliant colors like their best Sunday school dresses to remind us of nature’s glory, even as they die. Granny Corinne is ever-present. I remember when she died—I was less then five and unafraid, as I sat alone—wearing short pants and a bow tie—in the parlor of our ancestral home. She was laid-out for her wake—like Snow White in her deep sleep. The morning light was passing through the parlor windows, golden like the turning leaves. The parlor was divided from adjoining rooms by imported Japanese soji screens—their paper was embedded with butterflies and leaves. Their shadows began to migrate across the room with the shifting sun. A butterfly kissed Granny’s forehead—another lit on my hand. A pattern of leaves trailed my bare legs. The silhouettes fluttered, giving form to the spirits of departed kin—as they welcomed Granny into their fold.

        We buried Granny in our remote family cemetery—the funeral procession recalling previous rituals—braving the crude path up the hill. Preceded by pallbearers on foot, the mourners stumbled through brambles as they forged their way to the graveyard.

        Returning from the burial, I remember Uncle Lige—resplendent—in long hippie hair and his funeral clothes, somersaulting with his lover Jack—down the hill through the fallen leaves.

        Uncle Lige was killed when I was 13. Like Granny, he is still with me in spirit. I’ve often called on him for his support and inspiration. He once said to my mother, “Don’t be surprised if Eric grows up to be Gay like me.” Maybe it was the way I’d stare at him, studying his every move—each flex of muscle—his facial expressions. Now, Uncle Lige watches over my shoulder as I wander the streets of New York City and inhabit his former East Village neighborhood. I wonder what it’s like for him, seeing our world swept by a plague.

        Uncle Lige used to say, “You have to learn to bend like the willow.” I didn’t understand what he meant until AIDS came into my life—and death became a constant “companion”—enveloping comrades in such rapid succession that I trip over the count and would lose their names if they weren’t housed in my memorial file:

        There is young blonde Scott with the bright green eyes; Carlos—and Australian Tim—Fair Pam—and the Jones boys, composer John and Jim the painter—David, the artist and activist—there is Huck, the frenzied Aries—beautiful Santiago and Zany Ann—Blue-eyed Roland—Lovely Tina—and Sweet Adrian…

I walk with the shadows

of the men I’ve known

and loved and tasted –-

and feel, even still,

the warmth of their breaths 

against my skin.

        The spirits of my friends and lovers who died of complications from AIDS commingle with my departed ancestors—an extended family tree.

        My guardian spirits abound—sending me back into the world. Each lends their individual attributes. They strengthen me as I feel my footing and learn to walk again in a world I was prepared to leave. My guardians have not relinquished me in my revival. They are stronger in me, as I am in myself.

Visitation (Fire Island)
2012, silver gelatin print, 20×24 inches


what’s the connection between Luv & CHAOS?

Hi Deza,

Luv ’til it Hurts is a two-year project focused on HIV and Stigma. CHAOS is a campaign about mental health. As a person who has a chronic mental health condition as well as HIV, it is easy for me to consider and ‘internalize’ how my mental state and HIV ‘get along’ within me. As an artist who makes public, multi-stakeholder projects, I would like to ‘externalize’ a range of topics that pertain to HIV and stigma. I am using my own experience to ask how others contend with the two ‘co-morbidities’ (as the doctors call them) of HIV and depression. 

I use the metaphor ‘get along’ as if HIV and depression are kids that need to behave together on the playground. I have other metaphors that come to mind, but prefer this one. On a good day, they do get a long ok. I pop three pills (2 for HIV, 1 for depression) around lunchtime each day. I had already dealt with depression before contracting HIV, so I wasn’t surprised when I needed to take a higher dosage to contend with the stress of learning my HIV status. This dosage has gone down (and back up and down a few times) over the five year period of being HIV+. 

There are other times when I start to worry about the different medications interacting, even if prescribed by the same doctor. There are times when I’ve felt my dream life become more active, and wondered if it was the change from an older HIV med to a newer one, or the sometimes shifting dosage of the depression med. I have HIV+ friends who have also expressed their confusion (and sometimes denial) of side effects, but I admit that these conversations are not as common as the ones in which we compare HIV meds (like, what does your doctor have you on now?), and at the same time make mention of our ‘co-morbidities’ and the other drugs we take, entre nous. 

There is no question that talking with other poz folks offers a form of solidarity. However I don’t remember talking so much to other depressed folks before I contracted HIV. From a personal standpoint, I’m quite certain that open conversation and solidarity are important to quality of life and happiness. I think this is the connection for our projects.

I vividly remember an awareness campaign over a decade ago for which you worked with the City of Paris, and beautiful black and white images representing able bodies in a way that moved my understanding on ‘ableism’ were on the sides of city buses. Deza, I think you are a brilliant campaigner, and in Cameroonian terms, you are my big sister. Given that CHAOS and Luv ’til it Hurts are happening concurrently, I would simply like for our campaigns to ‘bang up against each other’, one learning from the other. If that’s ok?

Venezuela, Bogotá

Luciérnagas Laboratorio: Arte | fronteras | VIH  proyecto de arte por Daniel Santiago Salguero

Querido Todd. Respondiendo a tus preguntas del último correo te cuento: Efectivamente la crisis Venezolana ha traído una cantidad inmensa de personas de Venezuela a Colombia. Es la migración interna más grande en la historia reciente de Sur América. Se habla de hasta cuatro millones de venezolanos que están ahora en Colombia. Esto ha transformando el territorio cultural. Han llegado a asentarse en todas las ciudades de Colombia, inclusive en las islas del Caribe o en territorios rurales distantes de las ciudades. Muchos vinieron en una primera ola, quizás donde hubo más oportunidades o eran personas con preparación profesional. Ahora no es así, vienen las personas más pobres y en las situaciones más difíciles. Vienen inclusive hasta Bogotá caminando desde Venezuela. Atraviesan páramos y se enfrentan con la actitud xenófoba de muchos colombianos que no toleran su situación. No recuerdan por ejemplo que fueron los colombianos lo que emigraron a Venezuela en nuestra crisis económica y de violencia en los años noventas. Se dice que han regresado más de 300.000 colombianos que vivían en Venezuela. También se dice que la situación acá para los Venezolanos está tan difícil que muchos se están regresando a su país, se dice que se ven personas caminando por las carreteras hacia Colombia y otras ya regresandose a Venezuela. La relación específica y que interesa con respecto al VIH es que en Venezuela ya no hay medicinas para atender el virus. Así que quienes tienen VIH en Venezuela deben salir del país en una situación aún más vulnerable que las de los otros migrantes. Deben además de buscar techo, trabajo, arraigo, buscar su medicina, que es muy costosa y que el gobierno colombiano solo suministra a personas nacidas en el país a través del sistema de salud público. La situación está desbordada por muchos lados. Por ejemplo hasta la semana pasada se dio nacionalidad colombiana a más de 24.000 niños que habían nacido de padres venezolanos en territorio colombiano y que hasta ahora no tenían nacionalidad, ya que los consulados venezolanos están cerrados o no existen mas. Cómo vez, son muchas las aristas y hechos por analizar en medio de la debacle. Se dice que esto traerá muchos cambios sociales, y culturales, como se ha visto que ha sucedido en las grandes migraciones a nivel mundial y local. Ayer oí en la radio, están entrando alrededor de cincuenta mil venezolanos diariamente por la frontera a Colombia. A través del laboratorio estamos desentrañado estas historias, informaciones, estadísticas, subjetividades. Entender y encontrar información nos ayuda a situarnos en el territorio que habitamos. Desde el laboratorio intentaremos dar voz y espacio para reflexionar sobre estas urgentes temáticas.

El laboratorio está siendo tomado por personas en su mayoría colombianos. Casi todos tienen VIH y llegaron al laboratorio a través de la Liga Colombiana de lucha contra el sida, un aliado definitivo para el laboratorio.

El laboratorio consta de 10 sesiones temáticas, de las que ya llevamos cinco: El cuerpo en las artes, Memoria Léxica, Arte y fronteras, Arte y VIH, Grupo de estudio y redes de afecto. Estas sesiones han traído charlas y colaboraciones muy esclarecedoras de la situación. Cómo ya sabes la idea es hacer un performance final en espacio público, al parecer sucederá durante la noche del 25 de octubre en el Jardín Botánico de Bogotá. Las sesiones son abiertas y gratuitas para la comunidad. Por lo general nos encontramos en grupos de 8 a 15 personas. La idea es que haya un grupo constante, creo que serán unas diez personas posiblemente las que lleguen hasta el final del laboratorio para la presentación. La metodología de trabajo para este performance viene de herramientas que adquirí en la Maestría de Teatro y Artes Vivas que hice en la Universidad Nacional de Bogotá hace unos años. Esta maestría es dirigida en gran parte por los directores de la compañía de teatro Mapateatro, que tiene un interés especial en poéticas relacionadas a la memoria, lo político y social.


Luciérnagas Laboratory: Art | borders | HIV  art project by Daniel Santiago Salguero

Dear Todd. In response to your questions from your last e-mail, let me tell you: Indeed, the crisis in Venezuela has brought a huge amount of people from Venezuela to Colombia. It is the biggest internal migration in recent South American history. It is said that there are almost four million Venezuelans in Colombia now. This has transformed the cultural terrain. They have settled in all towns across Colombia, including in the Caribbean islands and in rural locations, far away from the big cities. Many have come over in a single first wave, perhaps to where there were more opportunities, or they were people who came with a specific professional training. Now it is no longer like that, the people who are coming are poorer and in more difficult situations. They even walk from Venezuela all the way to Bogotá. They cross moors and confront the xenophobic attitudes of many Colombians who do not tolerate the situation. These Colombians do not remember, for example, that it was them who emigrated to Venezuela in the nineties during the crisis afflicted by economics and violence. It is said that more than 300,000 Colombians who lived in Venezuela have returned. It is also said that the situation here for Venezuelans is so difficult that many are returning to their country, and that people are seen walking on the highways to Colombia while others are returning to Venezuela. The specific relationship to HIV is that Venezuela no longer has the medicine for the virus. So those who have HIV in Venezuela must leave the country in an even more vulnerable position than the that of the other migrants’. Asides from looking for a roof, work, and some rooting, they must also look for their medicine, which is very expensive and the Colombian government only supplies through the public health system to people who were born in the country. The situation is overstressed in many ways. For example, up until last week, the Colombian nationality was given to more than 23,000 children who were born from Venezuelan parents on Colombian territory, and who up until now did not have a nationality, since the Venezuelan consulates have been closed down, or no longer exist. As you can see, there are many sides and facts to analyze within the debate. People say that this will bring about many social and cultural changes, as we have seen has happened in large migrations on both global and local scales. Yesterday I heard on the radio that there are over fifty thousand Venezuelans entering, daily, through the Colombian border. In the labs, we have been unraveling these stories, informations, statistics, and subjectivities. Understanding and finding information helps us situate ourselves in the territory in which we inhabit. In the lab, we try to give voice and space to reflect on these urgent themes.

The lab is being used by Colombians in majority. Almost all of them have HIV and arrived at the lab through the Liga Colombiana de lucha Contra el Sida, a definite ally to the lab.

The lab features 10 thematic sessions, five of which we have already done: The body in the arts, Lexical Memory, Art and borders, Art and HIV, Study group and networks of affect. These sessions have brought talks and collaborations that have been very clarifying about the situation. As you already know, the idea is for there to be a constant group, and I believe there will likely be around ten people who will arrive before the end of the lab for the presentation. The work methodology for this performance comes from tools that I have acquired during my Master’s in Theater and the Living Arts, which I completed at the National University of Bogotá some years ago. This Master’s is managed in large part by the directors of the Mapateatro theater company, which has a special interest in poetics that are related to memory and to that which is political, as well as social.

Sesión #1 – Contexto del cuerpo en las Artes

Sesión #2 – Memoria Léxica

Sesión #3 – Arte / VIH

Sesión #4 – Arte / Fronteras

Thank you to Lois Weaver (ample version)

Conceived by Luv ’til it Hurts participants during a design workshop in Port Said, Egypt, the LUV_GAME is inspired by The Long Table, a performance process by Lois Weaver. The game is designed for art world and non-art world venues … public, private and super private spaces. At the same time it may be available online one day. The game pieces will be downloadable from the LUV site by World AIDS Day, December 1, 2019. Each time the game is presented in a new language, the translated ‘instructions’ will be made available from the site. The game can be played in black and white or in color. 

The game is modeled after Exquisite Corpse. There are five shapes, including a signature heart. Four of the shapes are varied in size (large and small), design and color when feasible. The black-and-white game is meant to be played with very little overhead. The geometric shapes of the tiles as well as the graphic designs of the tiles allow for almost infinite configurations.

The ‘heart’ tile carries the LUV logo and a description of the project. A second version of the heart tile is available for partner events. The partner’s logo is on one side. On the back of the four variated shape tiles, there is room for a LUV_NOTE. The public or audience is encouraged to take a tile and write something on the back. Ask a question or share a thought on HIV. If it’s in an art or community context (whatever the grounds for playing the game), the public is encouraged to respond to their surroundings, in as general or as personal terms as the like. 

The LUV_GAME requires a wall or floor.

The first tile is placed, and tile holders are invited to place theirs around it–or shooting off from it. The tile holder decides if the design faces out or if their LUV_NOTE faces out. This can happen in passive or active settings. For example, in a museum or gallery context, there are a set of five or six large tiles on the exhibition wall. Succinct instructions for the game are printed on the nameplate for the piece. The variated tiles are stacked beside the piece as broadsheets sometimes are. A space is made available on the wall for the initial set of 5/6 tiles to expand and extend (perhaps being refreshed at the beginning of each day). 

A scheduled viewing of the same group show, similar to other public settings offers an active context in which to play the game. The process is led with the instructions announced. Tiles are distributed. Markers and sticky tape for writing and pinning the LUV_NOTES. 

Having a discussion after the allotted time period for reflection/writing/pinning-up the tiles is suggested, and is meant to be an extension of the process. The game does not need to be discussed per se, but perhaps the broader context–art show or community center–does. 

The game should help discussions along. 

Thank you Lois Weaver. 

A Conversation with Artist Eric Rhein

New York based artist Eric Rhein speaks about his two exhibits, Lifelines, which
have been on view in his home state of Kentucky.
Lifelines is an exhibition at two locations in Lexington: at Institute 193 through
July 27 th , and the Lexington’s 21c Museum Hotel, through the end of August.
Todd Lanier Lester, of the Luv ‘til it Hurts campaign, asked Eric about the
shows—and his current and ongoing concerns.

What is the significance of your showing your work in Kentucky?

First, I want to thank you for having this conversation with me. As it happens,
today is the last day of the part of the show that’s at Institute 193. While the
companion show at the 21c Museum Hotel runs through August, exhibitions are
fleeting and only those who are geographically near have the opportunity to see
them. So, via this conversation, it’s rewarding when my artwork and the history
embodied in it can contribute to the conversation around HIV and AIDS, beyond
the walls of those exhibitions.

But tell us: How is Kentucky a special place for you?

Presenting Lifelines in Kentucky has a particular resonance. My family roots are
in Kentucky, and a sense of heritage and lineage are important to me. My Uncle
Lige Clarke was a formative pioneer in the Gay Rights movement of the 1960’s
and 70’s. He and my mother grew up in Hindman: a tiny, rural town in
Kentucky’s Appalachian Mountains—yet he had the fortitude to help lead the
way to an expansion in gay identity through his activism, like helping to
organize the first picket for Gay Rights at the White House in 1965, and also
founding and editing the first national gay newspaper, Gay, with his partner Jack
Nichols, in 1969. I see my drive to include my HIV status in the context of my
artwork as being linked to my uncle’s activism.

How does your memory of your uncle tie in with your own growth?

My uncle had a spiritual core, cultivated through his studies of Yoga and eastern
philosophies, and his appreciation of the great American poet Walt
Whitman—in fact, he always traveled with a copy of Whitman’s book-length
poem, Leaves of Grass. My uncle’s legacy—a liberated vision of life as a gay
man—was passed to me through my encountering autobiographical books
which he wrote with his partner Jack Nichols. That was just when I was entering
puberty and finding myself. Their book about their relationship and activism, I
Have More Fun With You Than Anybody, continues to inspire me. Further, AIDS
activism—which has a spiritual aspect—has contributed to the evolution and
visibility of LGBTQ identity.

I’m quite taken with the title of the two shows: Lifelines. Where does this title
come from?

In the Institute 193 show is a series of three photos that I call Me with Ken. A
photo, from that series, is titled Lifeline. So the name of the overall exhibit
comes from that—yet reaches beyond to encompass themes running
throughout my work and my purpose for showing it. In that Me with Ken series
(which is from 1996) I’m pictured with my then boyfriend Ken, and it was
during the summer that protease inhibitors were initially released. Due to my
having been on those new medications, as part of a study, I was rapidly gaining
a renewed vitality. Ken hadn’t yet accessed the protease inhibitors, and was on
daily IV drips for declining health. Hence “lifelines” refers to this, and to a larger
interconnectedness as well. The intimacy and tenderness, heightened within
that period of shared vulnerability and mutual-caring, is shown in that series of
photos—and is something that I hope runs through my body of work, from my
photographs –to my AIDS Memorial Leaves.

I know that your project, Leaves, is an important part of your body of work. Can
you tell us about it?

Leaves is an ongoing project which is a growing memorial to those I personally
knew who died of complications from AIDS. For each individual (and sometimes
for couples), I express my sense of them through a wire outline of a leaf.
Lifelines also points to an intergenerational exchange that is important to me.
When Paul Brown, the director of Institute 193 first came to my studio, two
years ago, it came out that he was about to turn 27, the same age I was when I

tested HIV positive in 1987. He had gravitated to my portfolio of photographs
depicted me and my companions in the 1990’s, sighting that they affirmed an
intimacy during the height of the AIDS epidemic, which contradicted the
narrative he’d been given when he first came out. Paul shared that his coming
out, like many men of his generation, was colored by associating being gay with
HIV—and, consequently, fear of sexual expression. Shifting the narrative he’d
inherited to a more expanded one, was primary to our working together.

Can you say a bit more about the relation of HIV to your artwork and life?

Having lived with HIV for just over three decades, I’ve found that there’s a real
potential for transcendence—yes, even within this complex history of
vulnerability, loss, and survival (and, maybe, sometimes, because of it.) Sharing
my artwork, which came through my experience of HIV and AIDS—and sharing
it with younger generations—brings a sense of purpose and healing.

I hear that you have written a piece that corresponds with many of the themes
you’ve explored in your artwork (and which we just talked about). Can you tell
me more? Will we have access to it soon?

Yes, “The Gathering” is a piece that I’m happy to share with the Luv ‘til it Hurts
community—and I’m glad to send it along soon, to be available on the website.

One more thing: is it true that there’s a book coming out on your work?

Yes. It too will be titled Lifelines—and will come out early next year.

  • Rain (self-portrait), 1994 Silver gelatin print, 20x16 inches

= = = = = = =
Lifelines, an exhibit of Eric Rhein’s work, continues at the 2c Museum Hotel
through the end of August, 2019.
21c Museum Hotel
127 West Main Street
Lexington, Kentucky 40507
Eric’s website is: http://www.ericrhein.com

= = = = = = = =

A Discussion between CHAOS + LUV

TL: Hi Deza .. we’ve known each other for over a decade now and met through my beloved Cameroonian network and when I was making freeDimensional. You are based in Paris and FULL STOP, I admire your work. When I met you, you had just placed beautiful portraits on Paris city buses of people that challenge our notions of what it means to be ‘able’…that opened a discussion on ‘ableism’ in Paris and far beyond. Do you have a link to that previous work you can share here?

DN: Hi Todd, thanks for kindly introducing my work. Aesthetics and Disability was indeed my first big concept that started in 2008/2009 in South Africa with the sponsorship of the city of Cape Town. The exhibition was displayed afterwards in many other places and cities, and among them, Paris. My goal with this exhibition was to challenge the notions of “ableism” and “beauty”. By inviting people to look far beyond what their eye can see, I wanted to celebrate diversity and particularly in this project people with disability.

You can read more about this project here: https://www.carnetsdesante.fr/Esthetique-et-handicap

TL: And, what is CHAOS? Can you tell us a little about the recent poster campaign in Paris? And also about the upcoming.

DN: CHAOS is an awareness campaign on mental health. According to the World Health Organization, 1 out of 4 people worldwide suffers from mental health issues. It’s the first cause of disabilities worldwide and the second cause of sick leave. Thus, it’s a major societal problem that needs to be cleverly addressed in a crosswise manner (in institutions, in corporations as well as in society in general). Besides, psychological disorder goes with various stigmas and taboos. And the people hit by this issue also suffer from isolation. As a communication agency specialized in social corporation responsibility, we decide to launch this awareness campaign to stop the taboos and to open up a space for dialog that will lead in the building of a more inclusive society.   

CHAOS uses technological tools to propose an immersive experience in the “brain” of someone living with a mental health issue. The experience is divided into 2 parts, the first is just like a very poetic and epic trip in the “brain” and the second is 4 movies in VR talking about the personal experience of 4 people living with psychological disorders. It’s an outdoor campaign that will be showcased in different cities in France and hopefully the campaign will be international if we succeed in making important collaborations and raising enough funds for that purpose.   

TL: Deza, when we got together in Paris a year ago, we discussed the overlaps between mental health and stigma (and in my case) HIV.

DN: Stigma is an obstacle to fulfillment as it prevents people from opening up and blossoming. And unfortunately, all those who are “different” from the standards (mental health, HIV…) face it somehow. We need to stand up in order to stop the stigma.  

TL: What we know is that HIV can exacerbate mental health issues and much of this is in the ‘invisible’ space that also conjures various stigmas. There are also cases in which a person has a mental health condition before contracting HIV. And, there are plenty of ways to understand how stigma affects people with either chronic illness, a mental health condition, and HIV. Yet these discussions tend to be sotto voce and only get attention when they become extreme or so explicit that families and communities must address them. I am making LUV in order to open up a discussion on HIV related stigmas, and it seems we have a pretty big overlap with those also associated with mental health. What might our projects do to help broaden understanding in this ‘overlap’ space?

DN: Our projects need to be very popular and accessible to billions of people. That’s why I chose to do an outdoor campaign. It has to go to the people and not wait for people to come to it. It has to be funky and speak a language that anyone can understand. Last but not least, it has to give space for discussions and create links between people from different backgrounds and cultures.  

TL: And, since I happen to live with both HIV and manic depressiveness, one of my biggest concerns is how the two medications interact, and the implications of changing HIV meds as there are advancements in care against the dosage of Bupropion I usually take for leveling out my moods. But too in relation to stigma, I imagine that the relabeling of the same Bupropion drug for those who are ‘quitting smoking’ has something to do with perception and, yes, stigma. Is there anything you’d like to ask me for your CHAOS campaign? Let’s talk about it … I would LUV to help out. 

DN: Thanks for openly sharing your personal experience on mental health issue as well as on HIV. I’d love to record a few minutes of interview with you for the CHAOS podcasts as the idea is also of empowering others with inspiring people just like you.

TL: What is happening from 3-6 October in Paris … it’s something BIG, right?

DN: Can’t wait to get there… Y.E.S., it’s the next big thing from E&H LAB and I’d be glad if you could come to Paris for this opening. More to be expressed soon.

For more information on CHAOS, see: https://e-hlab.com/portfolio/xperiencechaos/

Fault Lines

Luv ’til it Hurts is the third in a series of durational, multi-stakeholder, rights-focused art works: freeDimensional (2003-12), Lanchonete.org (2013-17), and LUV (2018-20). In Why Make an ‘Open Work’? I discuss some of the logic around stakeholder recruitment. Between the first and second, the first and third, and the second and third projects, I have invited cross-over stakeholders. For example, Adham Bakry who is working on ACT I has worked on design outputs for all three projects. There is a practicality in doing so: to learn to work with another artist or designer ‘practices a muscle’ that gets stronger through repetition. If it works, it really works, and can reduce some of the time needed to train production staff on a project that includes a ‘cross-over stakeholder’ and for which they are contributing a similar skillset offered for a past project. Design is an easy example to use here.

With multiple stakeholders joining a process and taking different levels of ownership and leadership, the topic of authorship invariably comes up. I became fascinated by questions of authorship and ownership when making the first project, freeDimensional. fD created a bridge between the human rights and art worlds for the express purpose of using artist residency ‘bedrooms’ for artist and activist safe haven. We humbly aspired to create a ‘sea change’ on the issue of artist safety hosting.  A dialogue happened along the way (10 years) with this goal. At the time I understood intuitively that in order for an idea to spread effectively it would need the largesse of an ‘organization’ and that typical considerations of authorship, ownership and artist credit would be muted by this strategy of imitation. Around this time I started using the term ‘organizational form’ to describe my work. Working in organizational form is synonymous for me to institutional critique. My projects ask institutions to change the way they act, and propose an example, solution or prototype on which to test a new idea for or functional form of ‘organization’. Therefore, and from a very early moment in its lifespan, LUV is explicitly offering a critique on authorship and ownership. I think this will become clear in ACT II when the project proposes a business plan for fighting HIV-related stigma.

Admittedly there have been frustrations around crediting within all three projects. They do seem unavoidable. And, yet I would argue that the cumulative output of the overall multi-stakeholder project justifies these, at times, tedious discussions. While I enjoy exhibiting and curating when I get the chance, there have been points in both freeDimensional and Lanchonete.org when I did not want them understood in these terms. Stepping outside some of the art world systems is therefore a conscious decision, for these are but some of the institutions that LUV hopes to move to action. Over the course of the 1st and 2nd projects, I began to understand the relationship between art world power and access, patronage and funding, and ultimately have to rethink how to finance the multi-stakeholder, durational art works (or projects) I fancy making at each turn. For LUV, the process of raising art world money and seeking art world access will be included in the ‘story’ or archive of the project. 

The idea for LUV started forming shortly after I contracted HIV while living in São Paulo. At the time I was co-making Lanchonete.org, a project on the right to the city focused on São Paulo’s center. With many other partners, Lanchonete.org developed (curated and produced) a year-long program called Cidade Queer or Queer City. Several initiatives and ideas came up during this period, such as the EXPLODE! Residency, ATAQUE Ball, Queer Graphics LaboratoryJanta: Queer Food / Queer Politics, the first episode of TravaLíngua and the Textão exhibit at São Paulo’s Museum of Sexual Diversity as well as an eponymous book and film. We were looking for relations between the themes of queerness and the right to the city; and at the same time, I was already experimenting deeply creating spaces in which discussions about HIV could flourish. Because Queer City–like Lanchonete.org–was owned by a lot of people, I must credit some for helping me to experiment with the emerging ideas I was having on HIV-related programming. 

Making three projects back-to-back and with the same tenets may get wrapped up in a nice package after the fact. I am presently writing a text on methodology for example. In a methodological sense, I see how learning from the first project allowed me to shorten the timespan for the second, and again for the third. And, in this sense, I think it is feasible to make a game plan from an idea and implement it over a two-year period. Full stop. But the two-year timespan is also for me. You see, I knew before I started that this would be the most personal of the three works, and that focusing on the theme of HIV would unleash an emotional ‘heat’ in me and other stakeholders, and indeed by our interactions. The first year of LUV has taught me a lot. I invited some cross-over stakeholders into the project, and some of those interactions resulted in tension, which I attribute to this emotional heat. I experienced tensions with new stakeholders as well, but single out crossover stakeholders for another observation, which is: each project assumes a different organizational form–freeDimensional (network/sea change), Lanchonete.org (collective/platform), and LUV (business plan/philanthropic device)–and for crossover stakeholders there is a necessary shift of pace directly related to the hierarchical proposition of the next conjured form. And, compounded by the speed (duration) of the project created/used to test it out.

While there is not a coded answer in these fault lines, I think it is important to bring up authorship, credit, fundraising and hiring practices between artists in order that LUV’s work can be considered alongside its political economy. 

To date, Luv ’til it Hurts has received a $50,000 from the Ford Foundation, which was spent in the first year of R&D on administration, participant travel, honorariums, graphic and web design, printing, web hosting costs and commissioning content. The second year will require additional fundraising. 

Pour La Libération Immédiate de Malak El-Kashif!

Lundi 1er juillet, à l’initiative de l’ Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF), ANKH (Arab Network for Knowledge about Human rights), Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS) et avec le soutien d’EuroMed Rights, la Fédération Internationale des ligues des Droits de L’Homme, et la Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, s’est tenue une conférence de presse au siège de la LDH pour réclamer la libération immédiate de l’activiste transsexuelle égyptienne Malak El-Kashif.

La conférence s’est tenue en présence de Chloé Rassemont Villain, militante trans-idenditaire et ancienne détenue, Dalia Alfaghal, militante LGBT égyptienne, Leslie Piquemal, responsable du plaidoyer du Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies à Bruxelles et sous la modération de Michel Lubiana, Président d’honneur de la LDH.

Les différents intervenants sont revenus sur la situation de Malak Al-Kashif, activiste égyptienne transsexuelle de 19 ans arrêtée pour avoir critiqué le régime sur Facebook. Depuis le 6 mars, elle a été emprisonnée, torturée et discriminée à la fois pour son identité de genre et ses opinions politiques. 

Chloé Rassemont Villain est revenue sur son parcours en tant que première personne à se déclarer trans-identitaire en prison et à demander l’opération, à obtenir derrière les murs un traitement hormonal, à changer de prénom, à obtenir d’entrer dans le protocole pluridisciplinaire, et à être unie devant le maire a un garçon. Elle a détaillé les différents abus et vexations qu’elle a subis pendant ses 16 ans de détention de la part de l’administration pénitentiaire, en arrivant notamment à devoir s’opérer elle-même. Suite à ces expériences traumatiques, sa situation a entraîné la mobilisation du Procureur Général des Lieux de Privation de Liberté et du Comité contre la torture des Nations-Unies. Ce dernier a d’ailleurs adressé un message à la France indiquant que le traitement subi par Cholé Rassemont Villain en détention s’apparente à de la torture. Depuis sa sortie en 2014 et malgré plusieurs interventions auprès de différents parlementaires, la France ne s’est jamais excusé pour la manière dont Chloé Rassemont Villain a été traitée.

Après ce témoignage, Dalia Elgarghal a apporté des précisions sur le cas de Malak El-Kashif. Cette militante transexuelle et défenseure des droits humains est détenue en cellule d’isolement dans une prison pour hommes depuis plus de 120 jours. Elle est accusée de « soutenir une organisation terroriste » et « mauvais usage des réseaux sociaux afin de commettre un crime », pour avoir créé un événement sur Facebook réclamant que le gouvernement égyptien soit tenu responsable du mauvais état des infrastructures et de la mauvaise gestion d’un accident de train ayant entraîné la mort de 25 personnes. Dalia Elfarghal est revenue sur les conditions de détention de Malak El-Kashif, qui a subi des examens anaux forcés, est privée d’accès à ses traitements médicaux dans le cadre de sa transition et même pour son diabète. Elle a commis une tentative de suicide en raison de ses conditions de détention. Dalia Elfarghal a insisté sur le fait que Malak El-Kashif subit une double peine, l’une pour avoir exprimé pacifiquement son opinion, l’autre pour être ouvertement une femme transsexuelle.

Leslie Piquemal, quant à elle, a replacé le cas de Malak El-Kashif dans une perspective plus globale de répression généralisée du régime égyptien contre les défenseurs des droits humains. Elle a relaté que les violations contre les défenseurs des droits humains – ainsi que les journalistes et dissidents politiques pacifiques – se sont fortement aggravées ces 3 dernières années, et ciblent particulièrement les défenseurs et organisant travaillant sur les cas de torture et de disparitions forcées. Dans ce type de cas, les personnes sont fréquemment d’abord victimes de disparition forcée avant de réapparaitre plus tard en détention préventive, accusées de crimes graves. La disparition forcée dans ces cas, est presque toujours associée à l’usage de la torture ou au minimum de la violence physique et psychologique.

Selon Leslie Piquemal, le cas de Malak El-Kashif est révélateur de l’usage systématique de la torture par le régime égyptien tel que dénoncé par le rapport annuel 2017 du Comité contre la Torture de l’ONU. Selon Human Rights Watch, ces pratiques pourraient même constituer des crimes contre l’humanité. 

Pour terminer, Leslie Piquemal a souligné que le cas de Malak El-Kashif reflète les conditions dramatiques de détention dans les prisons égyptiennes. La mise en isolement prolongé s’apparente à une torture psychologique selon Amnesty International, et de nombreuses personnes sont récemment décédées dans les prisons égyptiennes suite au manque d’accès aux soins. L’exemple le plus emblématique est le cas de l’ancien président Mohamed Morsi.

En clôture de la conférence, Michel Tubiana a insisté sur le fait que l’Egypte est aujourd’hui l’un des pays les plus sinistrés de la région en matière de défense des droits de l’homme, sous couvert de lutte contre le terrorisme notamment. Cette situation doit nous interpeller en France à double titre : nous sommes l’un des principaux fournisseurs d’armes de l’Egypte depuis longtemps, notamment d’armes qui servent à réprimer des manifestations. Nous avons également un devoir de soutien envers les militants égyptiens qui viennent demander l’asile en France, dans des conditions difficiles, et l’ensemble du mouvement de défense des droits humains français se met à disposition des militants égyptiens pour soutenir leur action.

Tous les intervenants se joignent ainsi à la campagne internationale pour obtenir la libération de Malak El-Kashif, et exigent des autorités françaises qu’elles fassent pression sur le régime égyptien à cet effet. De plus, tous les intervenants s’accordent à dire que la défense des droits humains devait être placée en priorité dans le cadre des relations bilatérales entre la France et l’Egypte.

En outre, la lettre ouverte signée par une trentaine d’organisations internationales et adressée à de nombreux Parlementaires Européens, Parlementaires de plusieurs pays européens et Rapporteurs spéciaux de l’ONU, afin de faire pression sur les autorités égyptiennes pour obtenir la libération de Malak El-Kashif, a été distribuée aux personnes présentes à la conférence de presse. 

Lien vers la lettre ouverte : https://www.ankhfrance.org/malak 

Lien vers la vidéo de la conférence : https://www.facebook.com/ankhfr/videos/2259782150939495/

Pouvez juste rajouter les contacts presse suivants:

Association ANKH, Nicolas Gilles: n.gilles@ankhfrance.org, 0624003899

Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Leslie Piquemal: leslie@cihrs.org


A press release by Ankh association that can be found here: https://www.ankhfrance.org/conference-de-press

For information in English, click here.