WHITE [hope]

The first thing I want to say is ‘thank you’ to all the people–artists, non-artists, poz and negative folks–who took part in Luv ’til it Hurts for the past two-plus-years. While I’m still putting final touches on both RED & BLACK, I would like the last words on the site (and perhaps the first to be read) to be these: THANK YOU !!!

A simple color wheel confirms that WHITE is a symbol of ‘hope.’  Given 2020 and COVID-19, hope is in high demand. Sometimes white does not offer hard borders, and that is one way of imagining hope … just knowing that something hard to reach is also impossible to touch may neutralize a certain strain of fear. 

Somewhere on this site, I speak of a one-year ‘post period’ for the estimated two-year Luv ’til it Hurts project. When I wrote this, I was already at a point of reconsidering this aspect of my methodology and how its rhetoric seemed confusing to some of the stakeholders I hoped to attract to the project. Maybe before I would have said ‘recruit’ to the project in keeping with another methodological refrain concerning ‘access to multiple stakeholders’. You see one of my goals in making one last ‘durational, multi-stakeholder, rights-focused project’ was to both clearly articulate the methodology I’ve used on freeDimensional and Lanchonete.org up to and throughout the making of Luv ’til it Hurts … and for this, I achieved my goal. I now have the notes and reflections needed (in draft form) to interrogate, share, and invite feedback on what I consider to be the artist methodology I use. 

Different from freeDimensional and Lanchonete.org, Luv ’til it Hurts focused on a disease or embodied condition that I have and therefore it is unlikely that the ‘world’ of Luv ’til it Hurts and HIV will end after a prescribed two-year period by me. But, please understand that’s how I needed to frame the work in order to approach it with a customary naiveté (relatable to affect and gesture while not wholly methodological) that is required for ‘worldmaking.’ Let’s call it R&D or the research phase. I relate this ‘naiveté’ to something Dutch artist Lino Hellings told me about her use of ‘stereotypes’ in the beginning of a project, when entering a new space, public or community. And, for me, the risk would have been to ‘not apply’ my methodology to the final project, perhaps thinking I know what will happen and skipping a step. I resisted this urge for over two years during the LUV project. But since I could see early on that the personal nature of the theme more readily exposed the semantics of duration, I both used the milestones and goalposts I’d set out while simultaneously (and up close) considering their flaws. I hope that I put much less pressure on these milestones for the public of the project (its different tiers of stakeholders), but I must say the relatively short timeframe of the initial project increased pressure on my ability to both ‘lead’ and document the project. So I’m also happy these two-plus-years (July 2018-December 2020) are over.

So before my fake-farewell to the all-immersive-forever-project of LUV, let me remember the influence of US artist Eric Rhein, an artist based in NYC and living with HIV for over 30 years. He set an example for me that I plan to write about in the future. Also, the original Luv ’til it Hurts logo is by Adham Bakry as is the LUV Game, which introduced Exquisite corpse–as technique, method and aesthetic–to the overall process. EXQUISITE CORPSE expography is by Jakub Szczęsny. Every Where Alien’s poetics + pandemics, sample biograms and a Logo Poem are by Brad Walrond. Game of Swarm logic and website design are by Paula Nishijima. The R&D phase was launched by Todd Lanier Lester who also designed the LUV Fund. And Sebastien Sanz de Santamaria helped launch the Luv ’til it Hurts project in 2018 and coded the new LUV site in 2020!

And, lastly, thanks to Paula Querido Van Erven for helping me hold all the details together!

*See HIV-related activities in relation to Lanchonete.org: Arte, Saúde Pública e Estratégias de enfrentamento à Epidemia da Aids and Vidas/corpos com HIV.

RED [luv]

In WHITE I exclaimed how nice it was nice to put the final touches on the LUV archive in December only 6 months after the ‘official’ closing in July 2020, but three months have now passed and this one particular RED piece resists being finished … perhaps because it’s the only outstanding element on the entire RED site [**a new LUV site was erected on World AIDS Day, December 1 2020. During the 2010 ResArtis general assembly at Tokyo Wonder Site the Singaporean director Ong Keng Sen said something to the effect that ‘artists are concerned with starting things, and their closure is not something the artist must always consider’. In the context of his speech, this notion made perfect sense to me. Perhaps because I was looking for additional justification for moving on from a ten-year pursuit providing safety measures for artists-in-distress to a five-year site-specific endeavor in São Paulo called Lanchonete.org.  I don’t make works that a collector can purchase, so the idea of finishing a work isn’t so much about its monetization for me. I suspect however that this ‘knowing when it’s finished’ is common across artistic mediums regardless of their commodity.  

A durational work (like those I’ve been a part of) will have an afterlife or ‘post period’. By this I mean that maintenance will be needed for a period of time beyond the ‘official’ 10, 5 or 2-year length of the project.  Since the first one–called freeDimensional–I’ve known that a lot can happen after the official- and post-periods. Conversely, this expiration and notion of obsolescence (staying open to being ‘outgrown’, including ‘stepping down’ when there is no linear or clear transition of leadership) is essential for wild, exponential expansion … we just don’t get to know before taking the risk of letting go in which directions it spreads, if at all.  

Dates are just dates afterall. December 1 2020–when we launched the new site designed by Paula Nishijima–is one of the most important of the project however. I mention in Bienal Party that my stream of consciousness informs the LUV project. The story of hurt as a level of luv and outlet for pain started there…in that stream of consciousness. To curtail this dominance, we agreed that Paula would view materials on the RED archive site and select those articles that would be repeated on the new group site

I’m very, very lucky that other artists wanted to join this momentum and hone what had been forged of pain.  I can be honest that one of the functions of making this project (for me) was to expel the sort of pain I discuss in BLACK. I went into the project knowing that I’d need to keep a balance between this personal and some more universally applicable value propositions. 

And now, LUV is a project that conspires to be set free!

*See HIV-related activities in relation to Lanchonete.org: Arte, Saúde Pública e Estratégias de enfrentamento à Epidemia da Aids and Vidas/corpos com HIV.

BLACK [strength]

“Initiated by Lanchonete.org and ArtsEverywhere/Musagetes, the Cidade Queer program was a broad collective inquiry into how can we understand the contemporary city through a queer, intersectional, non-normative lens. The program included a series of encounters, dinners, residencies, and performances, and “Cidade Queer, uma Leitora” reconfigures these moments into a new form, extending the inquiry trans-nationally.”


On the same color wheel as WHITE and RED, BLACK symbolizes strength. 

The above-language is precursor to an essay on the ArtsEverywhere website, entitled Can a mestizo asshole speak? loaned by Jota Mombaça (as well as others) during Cidade Queer, an episode of Lanchonete.org

I learned I am HIV+ in June 2015 having just moved from NYC to São Paulo the year before in order to lead Lanchonete.org, which had a five-year focus on ‘The Right to the City’ and unbeknownst to me was the 2nd in a three-project series of durational, multistakeholder, rights-focused artworks. What I mean is that I didn’t yet know that Luv ’til it Hurts–a two year focus on HIV & stigma–would be the next and last. For sure I considered moving back to NYC when I learned my HIV status in 2015, but I felt (and feel) that stopping mid-artwork would have negatively affected my mental health more so than dealing with the initial shock of the diagnosis in a foreign country. Lanchonete.org had several different ‘episodes’ focusing on themes ranging from Haitian migration to the housing and urban green movements. Our most sprawling episode was Cidade Queer, a concept I’d been working on before we knew it could happen site-specifically in São Paulo thru Lanchonete.org. I named-it-and-framed-it and then took to a funder who I’d worked with over the prior decade on various pursuits; the foundation is called Musagetes and at this point I was on staff part-time as Director of Partnerships and co-conceived the foundation’s ArtsEverywhere web platform, which was basically the ‘new face’ of the Blackberry-funded outfit. Under this arrangement, we agreed that Cidade Queer would be a joint output of Lanchonete.org and ArtsEverywhere, and that my work on AE would be seen as artistic output–considering aesthetic (site functionality / artworks and voices on site), publishing (editorial and journalistic experience), and my signature rhizomatic workstyle … something the foundation director had grown to understand and value over our ten-year relationship. This is why so much of Lanchonete.org‘s content relating to Cidade Queer is on the AE site; before my engagement, Musagetes didn’t work in Brasil nor touch on HIV-related issues. Whilst I wasn’t quite ready to take-on HIV as a specific theme in my art practice, by 2016 I was actively looking at how I might come back to an issue I’d worked on for 20 years before being diagnosed myself. Cidade Queer touched on a range of queer/gender/orientation/urban/public health, community organizing and art angles thru a contiguous year of public events in São Paulo. These events bled over into 2017 when the Reader, a zine on Cuiabá, and an eponymous short film were released across a series of closing events. Work with AE/Musagetes subsidized my ability to live in São Paulo and work on Lanchonete.org. In 2017 I travelled 8 times internationally–going somewhere for the foundation or retrofitting personal opportunities into publicity opportunities for the new AE platform–and on one of those trips I forgot my meds. My contract came up for renewal at the end of 2017 and we began negotiations around September when I decided to disclose my HIV status to my gay, male boss. I asked for a compensation package that included health insurance during such trips. Within a month I was stripped of position; pre-approved grants I made on behalf of the foundation were revoked; I was negotiated down on previous expenses owed; disinvited to an annual planning meeting I’d helped to plan; and generally excommunicated by the organization including former colleagues / friends I’d hired into the new AE project whilst Director of Partnerships. I was never told why.

Reposting Jota Mombaça’s essay and other AE-affiliated articles is a way to reclaim some of the darkened territory I felt cleaved from by this particular chain of events … and, I really luv the understanding set forth by ‘Can a mestizo asshole speak?’ Thanks Jota! Cidade Queer was also invited for a weeklong series of events during Quito Pride in 2017, which generated additional texts. See below for a complete list of Cidade Queer-related pieces:

Can a mestizo asshole speak?

Looking for Lesbians


Cruising Quito: Notes on Grindr, Queer Codes, and Post-AIDS

On Pedagogical Turns and the Use of Time

Waiting for the After-Effects of Documenta 14 in Athens

1986 An Elegy for Our Coldest War

A Re-Imagination of Policy and Health (2 of 2)

What Does a Queer Urban Future Look Like?

*See HIV-related activities in relation to Lanchonete.org: Arte, Saúde Pública e Estratégias de enfrentamento à Epidemia da Aids and Vidas/corpos com HIV.

LUV, a timeline

Image by Sebastien Sanz de Santamaria

In January 2018 and speaking on freeDimensional, I was invited to give a co-keynote address on day two of the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Centre for Applied Human Rights @ York University [see download]. And while I now realize the ‘second day’ programme (of thinkers from the art camp vs. the human rights camp) is not included in the ‘one day’ online history of this two-day event, this was the first time I mentioned being HIV+ from any type of stage, podium, pulpit, soapbox and/or dais. This is indeed where I first met Professor Maggie O’Neill

On the same trip, I went to Berlin and stayed with friends Julia and Bakri. I told them about the first idea for Luv ’til it Hurts, an uncharted project that did not yet even have a name. And, boasted that if I knew someone who could get me to Sir Elton John, I would know what to do next. As the words came out of my mouth, I realized that I knew this person already, a philanthropy figure in NYC. I drafted an email to him on the flight home. It was meant as a ‘soft approach’ and so I didn’t ask for an intro to Elton (not yet). The philanthropy figure’s response included $50k USD for beginning my experiment. This is when I decided to ‘include’ Luv ’til it Hurts as the third project in a ‘series’ of multistakeholder, rights-focused, durational works that began with freeDimensional and Lanchonete.org

With these resources, Luv ’til it Hurts took shape, and in July launched ‘officially’ at the 2018 International AIDS Conference in partnership with Taiwanese artist Kairon Liu and his project Humans as Hosts. This date set the opening ‘bookend’ in mid-2018, and I personally decided to make the project for two years (at first), thereby ‘bookending’ the project’s uncharted phase at the end June 2020. COVID-19 offered a major ‘bump in the road’, and yet here we are rolling-to-a-stop–refueling–and not so far off the forecasted mark. 

Before its official launch, the nascent LUV project was invited as special guests to a community gathering on HIV in Philadelphia by the Amber Art & Design collective. The May 24th programme [see download] was originally slated for the Hatfield House in the Strawberry Mansion area in which the collective works. When we arrived in Philadelphia we were told that the venue had changed to Amber’s studio (which was great), and that we would take a tour/ hang out on the porch of Hatfield House later at the end of the day. We learned that the theme of HIV had been enough to get our original programme bumped from the historic venue by some cautious board members. One of the most memorable details from the May 24th event, is the ‘fish banquet’ that Leticia (a friend of Sidd Joag visiting from NYC) prepared for our lunchtime discussion (See featured photo).
In August 2018, LUV created a second annual exchange between Ballroom leaders from São Paulo and NYC, with House of Zion-Brasil and Coletivo Amem members attending NYC’s Black Pride and the HouseLivesMatter convening. Residency Unlimited, which was our fiscal sponsor for the Ford Foundation grant provided to us by Darren Walker, hosted a meeting of Brad Walrond, Flip Couto, Felix Pimenta, Kairon Liu, Malaya Mañacop, Sebastien Sanz de Santamaria and others on August 20th [see download]. Both the May 24th and August 20th meetings were introductions. At this point I had only given the project a theme (HIV + stigma), duration (approximately 2 years), and name (Luv ’til it Hurts). I wanted to ask peers: Is it necessary? What can it do? & Does a whimsical specificity for its timeframe and particular ‘end goal’ (of engaging the Elton John AIDS Foundation with a unique idea) detract from its potential to attract co-makers?

From this August 2018 meeting, a January 2019 visit to São Paulo by Brad Walrond and Pony Zion co-hosted by LUV, Coletivo Amem, House of Zion-Brasil, Esponja and HouseLivesMatter when both Brad and Pony participated in the 3rd annual Vera Verão ball.

In the meantime LUV collaborated with Coletivo Amem, VisualAIDS, Esponja and Coletivos Coletores on a December 1 2018 World AIDS Day event. And right after the visit of Iconic Legend Pony Zion (Father of the House of Zion-international) to São Paulo (Jan. 2019), LUV hosted Legend Monster LaBeija during Carnival (Feb. 2019), a residency we co-made with Esponja, Casa1, Casa do Povo, Casa Florescer, Coletivo Arouchianos, etc.

In February 2019, LUV partnered with Love Positive Women, a 14 day annual holiday made by artist Jessica Lynn Whitbread for poz women … and partnered again for a second time with Love Positive Women in February 2020. See online content from both years HERE. The February 9th Bobó for Yemanjá event in NYC with Thiago Correia Gonçalves (another ‘fish banquet’) is another favorite LUV memory!

A lot of things happened over the first couple years of LUV, and these are some details that haven’t yet been highlighted on the RED site

If I had a bit more time…

Image by Todd Lanier Lester 

In Why Make an ‘Open Work’? I begin to discuss DURATION, and why a project like LUV would have an initial, formal (albeit arbitrary) two-year timeframe. 

Lately, I’ve been sifting through scraps of paper, contacts and ideas for articles. Luv ’til it Hurts is in the process of transforming itself into a new (and perhaps more concrete) form that will be fully explained by its forthcoming new site. Before I tie a bow on the ‘red’ (or archive) site, I wanted to reference a few of the ideas and contacts that come to mind as I look back on the past two years concentrated on HIV & stigma. For example, I remembered two pieces by Gian Spina, On Pedagogical Turns and the Use of Time (with Nikos Doulas) and Waiting for the After-Effects of Documenta 14 in Athens (with Jota Mombaça) I wanted to include. Some others are:

The image featured here is one I took at the São Paulo AIDS Day Walk (December 1 2019) of a project by Leandro Tupan that represents HIV+ bodies in cloth works and banners.

During the Somos process, I met members of COLETIVO GLEBA DO PÊSSEGO and saw their awesome short film Bonde about “three young black friends from the Heliópolis slum set out to seek refuge among the LGBT+ nightlife of downtown São Paulo.” In fact, I went up to one of the stars at a dance party (in the ‘downtown’) to tell them how much I liked their work!

Similar to COLETIVO GLEBA DO PÊSSEGO, I had hoped to interview Mexican artist Manuel Solano and Brazilian artist Mavi Veloso for the ‘red’ site as well. I hope to get to talk to them soon, and there are some great texts with them both in Ted Kerr’s WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT AIDS COULD FILL A MUSEUM Curatorial ethics and the ongoing epidemic in the 21st Century, Issue #42 of ON CURATING.
The HIV Justice Network is a global information and advocacy hub for individuals and organisations working to end the inappropriate use of the criminal law to regulate and punish people living with HIV. Their site is great, and the best idea I have to honor them is to make them an honorary member of the LUV coalition. If they want it, THEY GOT IT! Thanks for your work HIV Justice Network!!

Biography – Leaves

Eric Rhein
Frank the Visionkeeper (Frank Moore 1956-2002)
(from Leaves, an AIDS Memorial)
2013, wire and paper, 16”x13”x2”

1. There are more than 300 individuals represented in Leaves. I say more than 300 because I know that there are more than 300, but it’s  challenging for me to keep track. 
When I started the project in 1996 I set out to keep making tribute for everyone I knew to die from complications from AIDS going forward. That is how it’s grown to represent so many. I’ve held on to this concept, though I haven’t been able to keep up. So – I have a backlog of people to make leaves for. Some of this is in my head – some on scraps of paper. . . Over time I hope to be able to back track and fill in those I’ve yet to do. This is yet to be seen. There are corresponding aspects that I am behind in – Like writing biographies for those represented, and other texts. I could use some grant money and assistance / interns to help with these things. 

2. I use all kinds of leaves – not just Maples. If you look at the images of Leaves I’ve sent you, or on my website, you’ll see all species of leaves representing individuals. I don’t think of the species of tree representing the individuals, as much of some nuance of the leaf. On some occasions, though, a species may come into play – like with Frank Moore (Frank the Visionary), he is represented by a Oak Leaf – as he was a strong formative figure. The imperfections (holes) in Frank’s leaf suggest to me some vulnerability, and physical challenges he went through. 

3. There is a “Public List” of names (if incomplete) on my website, and in a few publications. Whenever any works from Leaves are exhibited, or published, I have the names of the piece included in the titling. As the project itself is evolving and incomplete. so is the list of names. You can see a list on my website. https://ericrhein.com/leaf_tributes.htm

Biography – Hummingbirds

Eric Rhein
Hummingbirds – Installation of Six
2016, wire and paper, (each one is 16”x13”x2”)

For Eric Rhein there is a metaphysical aspect to creating his wire drawings of hummingbirds and having them go out into the world. “The Aztecs believed that hummingbirds were the reincarnation of warriors, and that their presence had the ability to transform conflict—both internal and external.” 

“My mother keeps a hummingbird feeder outside of her sliding glass doors and takes great pleasure nurturing these seemingly delicate, yet powerful creatures, as she’s done with me through my years of living with HIV.”

What matters to me is the interconnectedness, sympathetic relationships, and the commonalities we can feel for all things in the natural world. Images of nature are used as a metaphor for the cycles of human experience: birth, life, death, and regeneration.”

One luv ends and another begins; HIV2020; etc.

Originally HIV2020 was to be held in Mexico City as an alternate meeting to AIDS2020 that was to be held in San Francisco. The biennial AIDS conference is a big show, and cities compete to host it for its business. There’s a tenet of the meeting that it alternates between ‘north’ and ‘south’ countries. AIDS2018 was in Amsterdam, but for some reason the decision that it be in San Francisco was made, which in turn gave rise to HIV2020. Luv ’til it Hurts was launched at AIDS2018 with a postcard series by the artist Kairon Liu and his project, Humans as Hosts. And, since it’s a two-year project (at first), we have a major milestone now two years later as both AIDS2020 and HIV2020 go totally online due to COVID19.

The ANKH Association and Luv-affiliated artist, Alberto Pereira Jr. proposed a physical exhibition and live performance respectively for HIV2020 under the title ‘Luv ‘til It Hurts: Experiences from Egypt & Brazil’ (and before COVID19 struck). These are now both online in the virtual art exhibit convened by HIV2020. See:  https://www.hiv2020.org/hiv2020-ope-005

Back when HIV2020 was to be a physical event in Mexico City, we were considering how to pay for travel, registration and lodging. For lodging, the project Human Hotel by Danish duo Wooloo offered to help find housing using their local network in Mexico DF. A big THANKS to Wooloo for offering this, and a big CONGRATS to Ankh Association and Alberto Pereira Jr. for their entries to HIV2020 Online!!!

Luv ‘til it Hurts began as a two-year, uncharted project about HIV and Stigma. An odyssey, of sorts. Yet, a limited set of questions. A discussion that grew into a team. Its next-life is aligned with our urgency to keep talking… talking in different directions and including others. The experience of many, once a minefield of individual fears, instigates the rumbling of collective production power. We’re gathering our ideas on a common table, and planning for a future whose hope is in the disruption of our present. We are convinced that to strategize our next steps we need more than single linear energies, but a group, a multitude of voices prepared to sing (and shout), to harmonize and also disarrange. Luv ‘til it Hurts is a platform for real bodies to come onboard and co-pilot its playful unfolding, one set of interaction generating the next. Alberto Pereira Jr. (Brasil), Brad Walrond, Paula Nishijima, Todd Lanier Lester, Every Where Alien (US), ANKH Association (Egypt), Humans as Hosts (Taiwan), Love Positive Women, Nhimbe Trust (Zimbabwe), Luciérnagas (Colombia) … and morphing. Embark immediately*!

[*We invite you to check out the new website (www.luvtilithurts.co) that sprang up around the two-year mark. Right now Alberto’s video performance is holding space there, but by the end of July the whole site will be in plain view. And, you will see what we’re thinking about for the future of luv.]

Codename: Exquisite Corpse

[*When the project began, I wrote a piece entitled Why Make an Open Work? where I used some borrowed ‘game storming’ graphics to show the chaos needed within a project before it comes to a point. This logic showed up again when Adham Bakry made LUV’s first design elements (see image). While I don’t imagine that an art exhibition is the only ‘point’ of LUV’s two-year period of understanding, it does seem very compelling as we near the end of its initial two-year period. Codename: Exquisite Corpse! xo Todd]


Subject: Curatorial concept structure

1. cover: sexy image with title/names
2. LUV concept description with names (who does who)
3. curatorial concept as extension/natural consequence of LUV with list of artists treated as a pool to expand or choose from
4. exhibition concept: principles/overall technicalities
5. 2-3 pages of my sketches of the exhibition, can contain one page with references from my previously designed exhibitions
6. catalogue/Free mashup of most representative works
7. possibly a last page with a list of references (organizations/www), should be in the end to limit the amount of written words and content, so if someone is bored, doesnt have to read these or reads in another occasion!

Important: to include strong messages/shortlisting of important motives, eye-catching visual references, synergy motives (coming out from the status of artists, experiences of people involved, etc), telling about expandable/evolutive concept of the exhibition both in the choice of art. works/artists and in the set-up.


Jakub Szczesny
SZCZ: www.szcz.com.pl 

Game of Swarms descends upon LUV

Game of Swarms will be thus a communication device as well as a register of the artistic research upon how dynamics of networks in nature can be used as a tool to understand new ways of relationality among humans and non-humans—based on the distribution of agency, rather than the centralisation of powers.


Collaboration is often considered a value, but not a standard behaviour in Western societies, as much of their thinking is rooted in the individualistic view of the subject—based on autonomy and self-determination. Game of Swarms is an artistic investigation and communication device that offers an alternative to that exceptional framework of the human, emphasising the collaborative behaviour of systems in nature.

GOS explores how living organisms work together without central control to adapt to changing conditions. Drawing on theories about self-organisation and swarm intelligence, the project materialises into a cooperative game, whose objective is to co-create its rules, the algorithms that will lead to the construction of a resilient network—and new methodologies to work together.

Through the collaboration with a team of ethologists, the project focuses on the collective behaviour of ants, bees and a slime mould, Physarum Polycephalum, which is a rhizomatic-form protist without brain but with great capacity of learning and complex problem-solving. These organisms exhibit efficient systems that survive through cooperation rather than competition, questioning the old saw of ‘survival of the fittest’.

The research then unfolds in three parts: a 3D audiovisual piece that elaborates on the aesthetics of life-forms based on connections, rather than individuals; performative work: a series of workshops with collaborators to reflect on the biological network model of swarms and play with a prototype of the game to create and experiment the rules; and the online version of the game (under construction) that will be incorporated into the website of Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives.

Game of Swarms contributes to the discussion about how the world is tackling global problems, such as the environmental crisis, and how the actors involved will have agency and response-ability to adapt together to these transformations.