remembering my first AIDS work

I cannot remember what was my first AIDS work. It was either flying from Cameroon to South Africa with my wife (at the time) to attend and volunteer at the Durban AIDS Conference in 2000, or walking with Minette and ‘her girls’ on International AIDS Day (1999 or 2000?) on the dirt roads of Batouri in the East Province of Cameroon. 

The AIDS Conference was heady given its location. I remember talks by both Nelson and Winnie Mandela as well as Justice Edwin Cameron. Among other things. Zackie Achmat and the Treatment Action Campaign loom large in my memory. 

Minette befriended my wife and I soon after we arrived in Batouri as Peace Corps Volunteers. She is a madame and had the most prominently placed bar for truckers to meet ‘her girls’ (as she called them). She is also a very good cook. As I was passing straight at the time, and newly speaking French, I guess there was some flirtation that transpired between she and I. HIV/AIDS was not our official work as volunteers, but we ended up doing a lot on it in those years (1999-2002). I would move to Bangui (Central African Republic) for a while at the end of our stay to make a project for Population Services International. The regional director (based in Yaoundé whose wife ran the chimpanzee sanctuary near Batouri, and closer to where the Chad-Cameroon pipeline was ‘coming through’ and spiking HIV rates as large construction projects can) noticed what I was doing in Batouri and Bertoua at the intersection of public health and media. We drank together one night and he almost dared me to go to CAR to make a multimedia campaign (TV, radio, billboard) in both Sango and French for their new ‘socially marketed’ condom. I accepted and then called him the next day excitedly to make sure he wasn’t bluffing … or remembered what he offered. This is of course where I fawned over Eriq Ebouaney at the hotel bar during the making of  Le silence de la forêt

My wife and I (small/medium business vols) banded together with water sanitation, English and health volunteers living nearby to make public health programming, and specifically HIV/AIDS sensitization. She was already quite focused on her public health career. At the end of our term, it was with PSI and UNICEF that we had a province-wide cultural festival in Bertoua on World AIDS Day. Jay and I traveled from Yaoundé by bus and there is the picture of him in a blow-up pool in the group house in the provincial capital, Bertoua… where it could get quite hot. 

On World AIDS Day (in 1999 or 2000) we walked a square (or the square) of the town. We marched even. We had AIDS Day t-shirts. And, maybe Minette had a banner with the name of her ‘association’. The sex workers who worked for Minette liked us too. We shared mutual respect, I remember. They helped new gringos feel welcome in a small, rough logging town. Minette is a good cook. 

Once I went there with our tupperware to get some lunch. Maybe I was getting it for Bethani too, or maybe just me. Minette called me into her bedroom, the room adjacent to kitchen /serving room. She lifted up the mattress on her single bed. It reminded me of a time my father tried to enthuse me by letting me get close to a still-writhing poisonous snake he’d just killed. When it startled me instead. 

I don’t know what Minette was serving that day (usually one domestic and one bush meat with fixings). Under her mattress was a hobbled Pangolin. She wanted me to see what would be for supper. 

hiv / art / establishment (#1)

[*The pink elephant image is borrowed from a Facebook intervention made by Niki Singleton and Todd Lanier Lester several years ago called Coming out of the Web 2.0 Closet.]

There is definitely an HIV art establishment. I have met it in a few forms over the first 3/4 of Luv ’til it Hurts, a two-year project that also aspires to elicit a few forms. In fact, I guess this broad ‘establishment’ may have factored into the form of LUV in the first place. I am an artist who works in organizational or immaterial form now for almost twenty-years. This can also be other things at the same time, like ‘site specific’ as was Lanchonete.org or a field-invading ‘sea change’ as I hoped freeDimensional would become. For the purposes of this field note, I would say that content or theme or issue inform the form(s) that are aimed for. LUV aspires to forge a philanthropic device (or mechanism) that can be taken and used freely at the end of the two-year process, which will be around July 2020 and when it is fully explained. I also think that style, affect and notions of gesture inform ‘forms’. In my own practice I understand that these styles, affects and attempts at gesture can be rehearsed over years and in different contexts. 

This explanation should pick up pace around February 14 2020. And, hopefully LUV will keep going in unimagined ways after its official ‘end date’ in July 2020. Here I want to talk about the philanthropic device (of things); however if you would like to see how LUV is also research, take a peek here in How LUV is research, in part (Part 1).

I was working for the blackberry foundation. It uses a clever name to suggest artist support, and indeed it does do things with artists. In Portuguese blackberries are a part of the broader group of ‘frutas vermelhas’ (or red fruits). So, yeah it’s a bit confusing to work for a social art, money-giving outfit that turns out to have a charred, atrophied heart. I read this great quote which I’ll cite when I find it again (it’s on a piece of paper I picked up at Bard a few years ago at T’s graduation) that goes something like, ‘it is the institutions of our life that hurt us.’ 

This idea of pain provision fits a de Certeau-esque mode of seeing organizations and institutions (from The Practices of Everyday Life). And for sure my response of making a ‘philanthropic device’ for two years while also mourning this particular ‘blackberry’ engagement does constitute form for me and (if I understand correctly) a ‘tactic’ in de Certeau-esque terms. The foundation ‘strategized’ upon me, and talking about it (writing about it) is my humble ‘tactic’ in response. I liken this tactic to a meeting in NYC in January this year when I broke down crying amidst a mild argument amongst colleagues from two different organizations. There were a few reasons to cry. It was for all of them, including the uncomfortable position I was being put in by my colleagues. One allowing the other to chide me while knowing that there were more details involved, and some of which were not on me. To call out these details would only make the argument more ‘hot’ and so I just let myself have a good cry. It resulted in a sorta prayer circle with my two colleagues, which, hey, worked for me.

However, the smaller actions (in fields of production, publishing, editing, grant-raising and re-distributing, curating, administrating, criticizing and so forth) that comprise the Luv ’til it Hurts project’s two-year calendar of milestones, well those are more related to the topic or theme of HIV and stigma and are meant to be performed for quality and mutual value. 

In fact in many ways what I knew how to do for the blackberry crew is what I know how to do for the LUV project. The Cidade Queer project is an example of a Lanchonete.org ‘episode’ and multiply-curated (as was the curatorial ‘bringing of’ Publication Studio to São Paulo) during the period of my foundation engagement. During this multi-year, contractual engagement, I was called a few things, such as Director of Partnerships. I have an immersive practice, which I term durational. This is most nuanced perhaps for Lanchonete.org, the five-year project on the right to the city from a lunch counter in São Paulo. So while immersed in (um) São Paulo and Lanchonete.org as a ‘container’ of produced ideas questioning the right to the city (in different ways through a collective approach) I was also in business with this blackberry foundation, and therefore sharing my immersive tendencies between two big projects that were choreographed to intersect at times. I also did things outside of Lanchonete.org yet in Brasil and many more things for the project internationally. I was helping them start an online publication thats about arts, everywhere (in the world). Having over 20 years experience making art, and producing that of others all over the world made me qualified to help such an artist-centered online publication, which would be the signature new project of the foundation. Its branding and brand awareness would grow to merge with that of the cleverly-named foundation. In true immersive fashion, I opened up channels of info and knowledge and connections to the already well-equipped foundation. I mean I doubt I was essential for this project, but in that I was invited to help as an internationally-networked artist to build such a concept. Well, things grew to be indelibly bound (up) quite quickly. While I do not claim that I was the lifeblood of the project, I do claim to have helped breath life–vital life–into the idea for publishing arts, everywhere. I recognize my signature on and inside the project to promote arts, everywhere.

The lawyer on the board of the outfit, the one who visited our multiply-curated projects in São Paulo and who has long worked on AIDS-related art she informed me. She did let me know to be careful in using the name of the foundation after I was let go. I do know that lawyers yield a certain power, so I will heed her warning. When I think of the blackberry foundation, I see red. So, you can imagine how the Portuguese translation imbibes me just a little. Frutas. Vermelhas. The LUV site is red, but I have failed to find a direct reference to anything except familiarity with organizational and institutional ‘seeing red’.

The other staffer allowed me to show him around Dakar, a city I’ve grown to know rather well since I went there the first time for Dak’Art 2006 with my ex-wife. I was performing some official duties for Res Artis on whose board I served. On the 2017 site visit to Dakar, the other staffer bemoaned the challenge of getting another $20 million transferred over from the donors to the foundation. He feared that the son would be a factor. I didn’t need much more context to understand his trials and tribulations. We were laying by the pool in a fairly plush hotel spread. Maybe I helped him buy gifts in the market. I enjoy bartering with the merchants and love to see the crafts and art work and old flea market finds out in the African capital street. I once bought someone’s stamp collection in the weekend market of Bangui out in front of the church, not so far from where the students burned tires on the day I flew back to Yaoundé. I had finished the condom commercial in both French and Sango in various media (TV spot, radio spot, photography potential for billboard usage). I had swooned over Lumumba (oops, I mean Eriq Ebouaney) in the hotel lobby. Bassek ba Kobhio let me tag along in similar ways as Eric Kabera and Imruh Bakari would later. I had a thing for African and Third Cinema and I suppose my curiosity was operational. Like picture white geek wanting to know something from black intellectual. My intentions were genuine and oft worked. Since there is really no other way to tell you that I once shared a taxi with Nicolas Cazalé in Ougadougou when Le Grand Voyage was premiering at FESPACO, I will do so here. My coming out was a long and arduous journey of star crushes. However, I only started starfucking in earnest when watching Hugh Dancy dance with a Tutsi woman at a backyard evening party during the filming of ‘Shooting Dogs’, and again more recently with LUV

My wife and I were living with Jay in the capital of Cameroon in this period, and I would travel for work in the region. Sometimes we would travel together as we did to East Legon (Accra) to help set up the Academy of Screen Arts. We worked at the first AIDS conference in Durban as volunteers and would later present a poster on our AIDS/HIV related work (in Cameroon) at the Barcelona AIDS conference a few years later. Sometimes she would travel first for work and I would tag along. This was the case in both Rwanda and Sudan. My hometown newspaper, the Cannon Courier said we were missionaries in an article after we first went to Cameroon for the Peace Corps. I can assure you we were not!

Cameroon is rather accessible in the center of São Paulo by way of a few African eateries that cater to frequent new waves of African / Diaspora arrivals to the city. The Burkinabe experience (and perhaps Abdoulaye’s) is a bit different than that of Nigerians, Senegalese, Haitians and Cameroonians. The rougher Cameroonian bar near Arouche, that’s where Edgar and I went the other night. Manu told me he was kicked out for kissing a guy there, which perversely excited me. However, Edgar and I would not be kissing. We sat with some female patrons. We chatted with others and along the way Edgar became a bit startled. As we walked away, we stopped at the next bar to discuss the mise-en-scène we’d just passed thru.

My wife and I were already back in NYC (and me at the New School) when Christopher called from Rwanda to tell us that Jay drowned off the coast of South Africa. I had caught Jay once at a house party when I saw his eyes roll back, signaling the onset of an epileptic fit. Once Thom’s boyfriend Ben got his finger caught in Jay’s mouth thinking that there was a risk of him swallowing his tongue. Jay told him after that this is physically impossible. Jay suffered a head injury once in Morocco when falling down a few steps in his apartment. I have a volcanic rock from Goma somewhere (I know I kept it) that Jay gave me when CRS sent him from Yaoundé to the DRC for volcano aid atop other years of humanitarian disaster. Our long-time friend, Brad who had met Jay in Cameroon heard from him when he was in S. Africa. Maybe I can share what he said in that final email here:

>> > Subject: long time…from Jason
>> > …..
>> > So now I_m in South Africa.  I_m going to finish
>> up
>> > some final reports this week and then head around
>> the
>> > country visiting some friends that I haven_t seen
>> for
>> > a while.  I_ll head to Mozambique from here.  All
>> in
>> > all, I_ve got about 6 weeks to play with, and
>> would
>> > like to spend a chunk of it on the beach.  I
>> figured
>> > that Malawi would be a bit sad to visit these days
>> > with the famine going on.  I_ll just have to make
>> it
>> > there next time.  In any case, I can learn to
>> Scuba
>> > dive in Mozambique the same as I can in Malawi, so
>> I
>> > am looking forward to it.  My sister also has a
>> couple
>> > of friends that I know living there.  So I_ll stop
>> by
>> > and visit them.  There is some hiking that I_ve
>> been
>> > meaning to do as well.  I_m starting to get really
>> > excited about this.  It_s been a while since I_ve
>> been
>> > backpacking or hiking.  I had hoped to start on
>> this a
>> > bit sooner, but even now I_m finishing up the
>> work, so
>> > there wasn_t too much chance of getting done
>> sooner.
>> > But 6 weeks will be better than 5, which certainly
>> is
>> > better than 4.

But back to the blackberry foundation and the HIV establishment. I helped conceive large program ideas that focused on different facets of HIV, such as but not limited to Cidade Queer in partnership with the blackberry foundation. I forgot my meds on a trip, one of eight I made with or for the foundation in 2017. When my ‘life breathing’ services contract was nearing its end (aligned w/ the 2017 year-end), I asked for an incidental raise to account for the growing workload and to cover travel insurance. In so doing I disclosed my HIV status to the organization. I was dismissed from the outfit (and my various titles such as Partnership Director) rather quickly after this point, sometime in September 2017. I had flown to Canada to attend the Creative Time Summit where Queer City had a book and film launch; something in the Maritimes; and Primary Colors, an indigenous artist and first nation leaders summit out in BC. I was invited to things like the Maritimes big art convening on my own artistic credentials and merit (I assert), but all such trips would want to have one of the various foundation titles co-branded alongside my name, and naturally so. I allowed this. This was a symbiosis that at times worked out well for me over the ten years of knowing the outfit. And in turn I gave my ‘all’ to the making of this new face or new phase of the outfit’s existence. I counted the other staffer as someone who would lay by the pool with me in Dakar (where I ran into this other Todd I know); someone who would host my husband when he passed through the guy’s city to meet me on a work trip; someone who wouldn’t get weird on me whenever I decided to disclose my HIV status. And, yet things got really weird for me. 

Somewhere along that rocky patch of understanding the foundation no longer needed me, and within close enough chronology to my disclosure that (and given no other justification) it stands to reason HIV was somehow involved. I make projects that I really care about. I mix things for different results. I would not have wanted so easily to be severed from the HIV-related projects I was helping or had come up with for the foundation. No, that would have hurt very bad. That these projects continue in some ways is not a bad thing. No, as I said some did not bear my ideation. For some I was to incorporate them into exchange and site-specific work from São Paulo. I wasn’t forced though, no it was collegial work that I was paid for, as an artist… from here, there and ‘everywhere’. Ok, I’ll give an example. An art space in Brasil is going to do a pedagogic /school year in Athens during a big art event. A series of writing is commissioned from its international cast of ‘participants’. It is arranged by me with the head of the art space, and implemented by another Brasilian friend who happens to be a participant of the intervention. I am glad those pieces exist.

I thought I was building a year or two more-future with the outfit. It was even discussed. But instead I was pushed out rather quickly. Let’s say it had nothing to do with HIV, or like the foundation just wanted to work on HIV but not have a poz staffer. Seems like the other staffer would have waited a bit to let me go. Seems like he wouldn’t have wanted to keep the other staffers I trained for him. I mean if something was wrong, all major decisions I made for the outfit would be called into question, right? Like what if they were infected by my style or what I consider to be signature. Signature style? Gosh, that’s high-concept, and–ya know–art is different, everywhere. 

So, like, maybe the establishment was right there .. in that morass. When I first opened the LUV project, a young artist told me that a curator wanted to know if I was poz. Since I assumed the young artist had told him I am, I just considered what a ‘pink elephant’ disclosure and the ‘hot stuff’ around it would become throughout the LUV project. I have more to say on this, so maybe I’ll write a book about the pink elephants of participatory art, in methodological terms (that would be pretty cool), or maybe I’ll pursue my new stickering career and fahgettaboudit. I’ll let you know.

1001+ Japanese fighter pilots

I vomited tonight … earlier today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

xot

drugs

We take drugs. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drugs. We use them. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HIV+ in São Paulo

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

***


Luv Letter, # complicated

A guy from Mexico contracted HIV. We had condomless sex. I remember this well. Some four years after our hook-up he contacted me because of Luv ’til it Hurts. He wanted to catch up. He wanted to know when I contracted HIV. He needed to dispel an idea that maybe he had carried HIV since the night of our lovemaking. I needed to react with annoyance. I did not. I needed to allow this. Also. It seemed. I had allowed it before in fact. This inquisition into memory and desire and night and sex and lovemaking. It was in a graveyard, a detail I should probably leave out.


My longtime partner in NYC is a black man. He contracted HIV since we broke up. I think I have to register this. 


I contracted HIV in São Paulo, therefore I could not have passed it to the Mexican guy … on a timeline this does not add up. My former partner told me of his status because of Luv and seeing it online. 


When I first contracted HIV I was with someone living with HIV. I needed to blame many things including the world itself. I blamed him. I tried to do it gently. I blamed him and he let me. Maybe he felt he needed to do that just as I needed to hear my Mexican friend in his quest for understanding. Maybe we do this. Maybe we torture ourselves, but maybe we won’t have to do that for much longer. 


Maybe I can say I’m sorry for blaming in a different way. Maybe I can try to understand something new that says thank you. Maybe that will hurt and seem unassociated. Maybe it has to. Maybe that’s lovemaking. 

Some remarks before I make the video

Hi Deza, 

I’ve been thinking about something and I’d like to share it. Perhaps these are thoughts that go into the production of a short video clip. While I don’t pretend to know how to edit such a thing, and barely know how to turn my camera on (something I don’t often do for skypes). I don’t like to give away my ‘eye power’ so much. 


I wanted to start with something I recently read. In Nicolas Bourriaud’s Relational Art, one of his citations suggest that an artist will often attract attention to her/his/their self in order to then re-direct it somewhere else. Without re-reading or reading into the statement too much, I get it. Given my interest in art history, it is quite easy to think up of various incidences and artists to which this idea pertains.


At times I jokingly refer to myself as crazy. I do this because I realize that some people I encounter find me that way. I do this with humor to ‘put it aside’ .. to confirm my hunch that they think so, and move on. 


I like crazy ideas, and so I don’t dismiss crazy or wild approaches in general. One sometimes needs a touch skin for them. Like what I mean here is that I don’t personally avoid people who I find difficult. I avoid them if I don’t like them, but not due to difficulty. I must have some magnet in my heart. I return to them. I often want to understand what is being communicated by a stance, style, approach, attitude, bombast and/or provocation. 


What I don’t do is to completely ‘overlap’ or conflate the notion of being crazy with the ‘rule book’ of crazy. I suffer from depression and some manic rebounds. I’ve been steadily medicated for this for some time. I have seen these things in my father. My brother and I are the next versions of our dad. This has always needed tending too. This chain of depression that seems genetically coded into our existence did not just come up in my dad’s generation. His uncle shot himself in the barn in the head. His father and my grandfather had other ways of expressing some sort of dark and difficult tendency. He died fairly young too. 


After contracting HIV, there were general stigmas that I faced, but too I needed to figure out the next wave of family engagement, and what this new development might mean. Needless to say, it gets a slightly different reception than my brother’s Type-2 Diabetes or the onset of Multiple Sclerosis in another close family member.


I am not so naive to have imagined that chronic diseases would not be weighted for family (and religious) relations. Did I mention I’m from a cattle, horse and crop farm in a part of the South (US) referred to as the ‘bible belt’. 


So with the added ‘stress’ of HIV, I have decided to share some thoughts on the collision of two things considered ‘chronic’ in me: HIV and severe depression.


I recently watched the David Letterman special with Kanye West. West was talking about having ‘bipolar disorder’ and got right up to the point (in discussion with Dave) of considering his own creativity in relation to his mental ‘standing’. Sometime this year I saw the last Daniel Day-Lewis film, Phantom Thread. He played a perfectionist tailor. Around that time he said he would not star in more films, explaining that lately he has a hard time coming out of role. He alluded to artistic process and mental state. 


Just this past week, I received some feedback that I’d ‘come on too strong with someone’. And the reason I have to pay attention to this is because ‘coming on too strong’ is not necessarily about disagreeing. What I realize in making art is that this very ‘energy’ I refer to is a part of the things I make and sometimes why they don’t get made. 


So, learning how to ‘deploy’ the energy / enthusiasm to the right target is something I work on. And, too, I don’t always try to control myself. 


Deza, when we first talked about your CHAOS project, I remember you mentioning some statistics you had that showed how people who have a lot of energy (or an extraordinary style) are avoided in social settings. 


Ha, I think I’ve experienced that a few dozen times:)


And, while I’m just me (experiencing me), I wanted to suggest that we are aware of these avoidances. That sometimes there is a comfort in being oneself regardless of the reaction. 


And, speaking as an artist, there are sometimes when we draw inspiration from or action by this special energy. 


What I needed to learn from my family (before or during learning how to be an artist) is that talking is better than not talking. Bottling things up is somehow deadly in my experience. 


By the way, I believe everything I’m saying to you … as much as I do the fact that I take a pharmacological solution pill each day to help manage … energy.


xo

todd


PS, I’ll have a version of the LUV game in French by October 25th for an Ankh Association event. I hope you will find a way to use it too for CHAOS!!

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