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.]

luv rules

When I first put out tent pegs for Luv ’til it Hurts (LUV), I framed it as a two-year period of R&D. The duration of the R&D is the (art) work. This is because I could guarantee to perform ‘research and development’ for a period that I determine duration. I aimed the process at a concept loosely termed ‘philanthropic device’, and then somewhere on this axis where process (asking questions / meeting people while focused on a theme) ‘meets’ identifiable / achievable structure or agglomeration of activities (culmination), I’ve been watching and nudging, teasing out and archiving the ensuing form. And, of course the ending can be the beginning of something else. If something substantive and/or timely comes out of this two-year marathon, I’ll see it. The period is up at end of June, and I’m on a keen outlook for what emerges. It might need new words to describe it, as it shouldn’t be run-of-the-mill. It will be clear soon. Of that, I’m sure. 

In the mean time, I offer some ‘tenets of transition’ … here goes:

* This red site (www.luvhurts.co) will serve as archive of the two-year process;
* A new site (www.luvtilithurts.co) will be erected sometime in July, and will explain itself (in terms of form);
* Notes on organization, like these ‘rules’ (or suggestions) will ‘live’ in the archive and cede space to new works and the discussions they bring up on the new site;
* The project’s brand identity will be tweaked during the transition, and some bits will be woven into /foregrounded in its new look

+ The LUV logo was designed by Adham Bakry, as was the project’s signature geometric heart and our letterhead. 
Thiago Correia Gonçalves pulled another logo from these spare parts with geometric ‘heart-LUV-heart’
+ Over the course of the project-to-date, the LUV logo has been used to show partnership with an artist’s independent film in closing credits and on the placard for a Bogotá public performance, and our letterhead used for artist reference letters on conference scholarships and residency opportunities 

Check out the two different letterheads below. If any of these visual tools are needed by LUV peeps (people who are in LUV) then, just ask us. And, we’ll send the version you need. 

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. Brad Walrond, Eric Rhein, Jakub Szczęsny, Paula Nishijima, Todd Lanier Lester, Alberto Pereira Jr., Adham Bakry, Juan de la Mar/”De Gris a PositHIVo” (Colombia), HIV2020, Every Where Alien (US), ANKH Association (Egypt), Humans as Hosts (Taiwan), Love Positive Women, Nhimbe Trust (Zimbabwe), Luciérnagas (Colombia), House of Zion, El Santo Taller de Cerámica (Colombia), Think Twice Collective (Netherlands)… and morphing. Embark immediately @LuvTilitHurts

*The final block of text is by Paula Nishijima & Todd Lanier Lester. 

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.

Voila!

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.

paulanishijima.com

Instagram

1986: An Elegy for Our Coldest War

Could Be The Ballroom was always our Nuclear option
A rock scrabble bunker become a threshing floor
How we survived our Coldest War

A Mother a Father an entire house full of babies
tucked into mangers woven out of street corner filament
limber enough to parent those of us:

born with and with out parents
with and without islands

begat inside flags with and without stripes
while reading for A-level exams

stretched astride Empires and Queens
too Black to be British
too gay to be queer—

too poor for the crowns we deserve


Boys and girls born beyond signage
onto intersections above and below 42nd street
where hormones traffic themselves,

Run all the rules. Busts all the lights
cum shot out of blackness too Pentecostal
for its own beneficence

Could Be the Ballroom Scene laid its own bedrock
atop an inference. As if by subterfuge.
As if by stagecraft. As if by premonition:

The way we live
The way we die
The way we transition

In and out of space
In and out of time
In and out of academies & boarding schools
With and without degrees.

In and out of dimension
The lives we all span is a performance


1986: What a performance it was!
In the year of our Lord June 30, 1986
adjudicating case: 478 U.S. 186 otherwise known as Bowers v. Hardwick the Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s Sodomy laws in a 5-4 decision.[1]

This year 1986 according to dissenting Justice Blackmun—enjoined by William Brennan Jr.,
Thurgood Marshall and John Paul Stevens—our nation’s highest court became “obsessively focused on homosexual activity”

So happens this same year 1986
a midsummer night’s dream is bequeathed
to Reverend Charles Angel;[2] a new faith begins its practice inside the living rooms of Black Gay men
fagged playing Russian roulette with their secrets the waters break. Gay Men of African Descent[3] is born

June 14, 1986
Daniel Garret[4] freebases on a James Baldwin line:
“Our history is each other” and a group of Black Gay Men
exhale enough pride inside a writer’s workshop
to inscribe for themselves a new nation:

Other Countries[5]

write themselves out of a BlackHeart
Collecting the floodlit life-force condensed
inside Joseph’s Beam[6]

In some ways we all still live huddled, impatient,
un-relented inside Joseph’s hologram

If There’s a Cure For This I Don’t Want It[7]


October 1986
Craig Harris[8] black gay living
with AIDS and walking realness

grabs the mic from the San Francisco Health Commissioner at the American Public Health’s Assoc. first AIDS workshop speaking for all of us he proclaims: “I Will Be Heard”

before Craig’s mic drops
National Minority AIDS Council is born
Craig Harris, Paul Kawata, Gil Gerard,
Suki Ports, Marie St. Cyr[9]

invite our colored selves to the Ball
because the rainbow was never enough.


On this runway Audre Lorde cries Dear Joe[10]
& the tinny juke box music comes up
through the floor of our shoes

This runway is a Battle
This runway is an Extravaganza
Watch listen learn
This Battle Is and Is Not Yours

The Old Way : The New Way :
either way spells perseverance
crafted out of imaginary high school diplomas

The Old Way : The New Way :
either way spells perseverance
out of nothing besides our poverty, our disease,
our sex, our privilege, our shame, our death,

A people a culture an art form a wellspring is born.


When lifespans splinter into foreshortened seasons
a phallus engorged pandemic goes jackhammer & rogue
sometimes God opens the second door

1986 is a second door
a portal in time manned by the
Queens of the Damned

a middle passage collects itself onto dry ground
An ADODI[11] river collapses alongside a
New York City Nile

Shamans sing:

in & out of gender
in & out of place.
Yoruba priests
walk bizarre


When My Brother Fell[12]

I cared not how rich he was
How Caribbean he was
How Ivy League his poison oak
How much southern fruit pickled his veins

When My Brother Fell

I cared not how many Prospect Park trees[13]
bear witness to his lovemaking. I paid no attention
to which butch-queen-voguing-fem
he was fucking
in between bushes

Or to how big
how thick
how heavy
the thorns

he let ride his back into Heaven

When My Brother Fell
I picked up his weapons and never questioned
The category he walked
how much make-up he had on
or which label she wore
behind closed doors

I never questioned
If his momma knew
If his daddy cared

I kept walking


Essex said, “there was no one lonelier than you Joseph”
30 years later, we not gon’ do it that way this time
The Ballroom collapses whole classes into nations

Every call gets a response
Every name every category
every non-binary
is an intention

A Universal law makes its own rules
Divines its own boundaries
causing legends to be born

While Paris Burns
Assoto’s Saints[14] and Willie’s Ninjas[15]
stand guard

a whole river of boys born without bones
boys born without spoons let alone silver

bright boys born on islands in between boroughs
that rupture beneath their salt water promise

Somehow the Ballroom always knew why
Boys and Girls born too-fluid-for-homes

need Houses

Essex said, “If we must die on the front line
don’t let loneliness Kill us”

If There’s a Cure For This I Don’t Want It


1986 1986 1986 is a house song at morning mass a break beat, a beat box, a carol, a love song, a dirge
a Brooklyn Children’s Museum born again
inside a Donald Woods’[16] forest

1986 is
a GMAD, an NMAC, an ADODI
a god-accented ebonic surviving for Joseph,
for Essex, for Donald, for Willie,
for Assoto Saint, for Craig Harris

For all Us born Survivors of the Coldest War
With and without parents.

Born too gay,
too queer for the crowns
we deserve.


*Images are from ‘Bobó for Yemanjá’, a February 9th event celebrating Love Positive Women 2020 in NYC at which Brad performed 1986 and other poems.


Endnotes

[1] In Atlanta, Georgia, August 1982 Michael Hardwick was issued a citation for drinking in public. Hardwick missed his court date and an arrest warrant was issued. However, before receiving the warrant, Hardwick paid the $50 fine. Nevertheless, two weeks later, police arrived at Harwick’s home, were admitted by roommate, and found Hardwick in his bedroom having sex with another man. The police arrested Hardwick and his companion for sodomy, a felony under Georgia law. Hardwick challenged the statute’s constitutionality in Federal District Court with the support of the ACLU. The case challenging the constitutionality of Georgia’s sodomy laws reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986. The Court issued a divided opinion holding that there was no constitutional protection for acts of sodomy, and that states could outlaw those practices. The case drew attention to sodomy laws across the country and in the years that followed several state legislatures repealed such laws. Finally, in 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas the Supreme Court overturned its ruling in the Bowers v. Hardwick case and invalidated the 13 remaining state sodomy laws insofar as they applied to private consensual conduct among adults.

[2] Charles Angel (1952-1986), a Pentecostal minister, community organizer, social advocate, and activist, who helped found the organization, Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD).

[3] Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD) was founded in 1986 with the mission of advancing the welfare of black gay men through education, social support, political advocacy, and health and wellness promotion. (For more information see the NYPL Archives and Manuscripts)

[4] Daniel Garret was a member of the Blackheart Collective, founded in 1980 by the Harlem-born Isaac Jackson. Blackheart members, all New York City-based black gay artists, produced a literary journal. The publication sought to queer dominant black intellectual traditions such as Afrocentrism and extend the gay liberation movement’s concern with prisoner rights and prison reform to a broader race- and class-based critique of carceral state power. The Blackheart collective disbanded in 1985.

[5] Other Countries was a writer’s workshop formed to develop, disseminate, and preserve the diverse cultural expressions of black gay men. The group produced two journals in the early years of the AIDS crisis, Other Countries: Black Gay Voices (1988) and the book-length Sojourner: Black Gay Voices in the Age of AIDS (1993).

[6] Joseph Beam was born December 30, 1954, in Philadelphia. He studied journalism at Franklin College in Indiana where he was an active member of the Black Student Union. Back in Philadelphia in the early 1980s, Beam got a job at Giovanni’s Room, a GLBT bookstore and began writing news articles, personal essays, poetry, and short stories that reflected the life experiences of black Gay men. In 1984, the Lesbian and Gay Press Association honored him with an award for outstanding achievement by a minority journalist. Disappointed at the lack of published gay black male voices, he edited the pioneering anthology, In the Life (1986). Beam helped resurrect the flagging National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays—originally founded in 1978—joining the executive committee and editing the organization’s journal, Black/Out. He died of complications related to AIDS in December 1988, just three days shy of his 34th birthday. After his death, Beam’s mother and his friend Essex Hemphill completed a second anthology of black Gay men’s writing, Brother to Brother (1991), which Beam was working on when he died (extract from Liz Highleyman’s article, “Who was Joseph Beam?” for Seattle News.)

[7] The refrain from Diana Ross’s 1976 hit song, “Love Hangover,” written by Pamela Sawyer and Marilyn McLeod. The song is one of the anthems of the House and Ballroom community.

[8] In 1986, the American Public Health Association (APHA) had its first AIDS workshop, and neglected to invite any HIV/AIDS or medical leaders of color to the event. Craig Harris crashed the meeting, taking the stage and the microphone from Dr. Merv Silverman, the San Francisco Health Commissioner. This was the genesis of a national movement and the founding moment of the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) that quickly became a voice for communities of color, spreading awareness of the disproportionate impact that HIV/AIDS had on their communities (see https://gay-sd.com/the-national-minority-aids-council-they-will-be-heard/).

[9] Leaders of prominent minority AIDS organization nationwide – including Paul Kawata, Gil Gerald, Calu Lester, Don Edwards, Timm Offutt, Norm Nickens, Craig Harris, Carl Bean, Suki Ports, Marie St.Cyr and Sandra McDonald – started the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) in response to the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) failure to invite anyone of color to participate on the panel at its first ever AIDS workshop in 1986. NMAC members met with U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop when he was writing his historic report on the AIDS. Originally scheduled for just 15 minutes the meeting lasted nearly two and half hours. More than three decades later, HIV still disproportionately impacts communities of color and NMAC continues to provide public policy education programs, conferences, treatment and research programs initiatives, trainings, and electronic and printed resource materials (see http://www.nmac.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/History.pdf).

[10] Audre Lorde (1934-1992) dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Lorde was born in New York City to West Indian immigrant parents. She earned her BA from Hunter College and Master in Library Sciences from Columbia University. She was a librarian in the New York public schools throughout the 1960s. She had two children with her husband, Edward Rollins, a white, gay man, before they divorced in 1970. In 1972, Lorde met her long-time partner, Frances Clayton and began teaching as poet-in-residence at Tougaloo College. Lorde articulated early on the intersections of race, class, and gender in canonical essays such as “The Master’s Tools Will Not Dismantle the Master’s House.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984) collected Lorde’s nonfiction prose and has become a canonical text in Black studies, women’s studies, and queer theory. In the late 1980s Lorde and fellow writer Barbara Smith founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, which was dedicated to furthering the writings of black feminists.

[11] ADODI was born in 1986 in Philadelphia as a movement of same gender loving men of African descent. “Adodi” is the plural of “Ado,” a Yoruba word that describes a man who “loves” another man. The Adodi of the tribe are thought to embody both male and female ways of being and were revered as shamans, sages. and leaders. Adodi currently has chapters in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York and Washington, DC. (see: http://www.adodi.org/)

[12] Essex Hemphill (1967-1995) was a writer who addressed race, identity, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, and the family in his work. His first full-length poetry collection, Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry (1992), won the National Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual New Author Award. He edited the anthology Brother to Brother: New Writing by Black Gay Men (1991). His work is featured in the documentaries Tongues Untied (1989), Black Is … Black Ain’t (1994), and Looking for Langston (1989). Hemphill died of complications from AIDS in 1995.

[13] The Vale of Cashmere is a secluded patch of wilderness in Prospect Park that’s been the unofficial locus of gay cruising in Brooklyn since the 1970s. In his short story, “Summer Chills” in Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men, Rory Buchanan writes: “When I got there, I found the park filled with men in the same horny, hungry state of mind I was in … I can’t remember ever seeing so many gorgeous black men in any one place.”

[14] Assotto Saint (1957-1994) was a Haitian-born, pioneering poet, author, performance artist, musician, editor, human rights and AIDS activist, theatrical founder, and dancer. Saint was among the first Black activists to disclose his HIV positive status, and one of the first poets to include the AIDS crisis in his work. After graduating from Jamaica High School in New York City, he enrolled as a pre-med student at Queens College. In 1980, Saint fell in love with Jaan Urban Holmgren, a Swedish-born composer with whom he began collaborating on a number of theatrical and musical projects. Their relationship would last 14 years. They were both diagnosed as HIV positive in 1987. The death of his partner Jaan Urban Holmgren in 1993 profoundly affected Saint. In his poem, “Wishing for Wings,” he concludes that no words can convey his despair over Holmgren’s death. Saint died of AIDS-related complications on June 29, 1994. He had requested that, in protest of the indifference of American society to those dying of AIDS, that the American flag be burned at his funeral and its ashes scattered on his grave. Holmgren and Saint are buried side-by-side at the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn.

[15] Willi Ninja (1961-2006) was a dancer, performance artist, and choreographer who was featured in “Paris is Burning.” He was a self-taught dancer who was perfecting his vogueing style by his twenties. As mother of the House of Ninja, he became a New York celebrity, and give modelling stars like Naomi Campbell pointers early in their careers. He also inspired Madonna and her 1990 hit song and music video, “Vogue.” In 2004, Willi Ninja opened a modelling agency, EON (Elements of Ninja), but continued to dance, appearing on the television series “America’s Next Top Model” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and dropping in at local clubs. Willie Ninja died of AIDS-related heart failure in New York City on September 2, 2006, at the age of 45.

[16] Donald Woods (1958-1992) was a poet, singer, and creative worker based in Brooklyn. He earned a bachelor’s degree at The New School and did postgraduate study in arts administration. His work as a writer began with his involvement in the Blackheart Collective. He studied with Audre Lorde and participated in Other Countries, a black gay men’s writing workshop. Woods was one of several authors of “Tongues Untied,” Marlon T. Riggs’s film about black gay men. He also appeared in Riggs’s film, “No Regrets.” (see: https://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/29/obituaries/donald-w-woods-34-aids-film-executive.html)

This article was originally published in ArtsEverywhere on Feb 27th, 2020.

*See Every Where Alien in the LUV coalition. And, check out Brad Walrond’s Launch Pad column in our Features.

More instructions for afterlife (next-LUV) designer

[*In February and back before Covid19 suspended travel (and life as we knew it) a group of LUV peeps met in NYC to work on the ‘next-LUV’ or an afterlife for Luv ’til it Hurts, a project that I originally charted for only two years. Those two years are almost up. We received some instruction/planning questions from teammate Jakub Szczęsny at that time, and again now as a new group plan takes shape. xo Todd]

1. which artists in the beginning?
2. how many of their works in the beginning?
3. what space? How does it look? Need plans/ etc
4. two motives to put together: social level of the reaction to the “plague” (magical thinking, morality, religiousness, alienation, etc) with individual level (spiritualization, development of everyday survival strategies, self-distancing, development of individual linguistics, etc)
5. I’m thinking about a set of cases that can be easily configured in various positions, cases that include artworks with illumination included, so they are very independent from spatial context of galleries and in fact invade the interiors like strange, dominating furniture. This way most objects: sculptures, photographs, videos, drawings, etc can be integrated into cases that are both aesthetic objects and transportation devices. The rest is happening on the walls, especially words : shorter and longer texts.

Why cases/boxes? 
1.They refer to contained secrets, something interiorized
2. when open, cases suggest that the viewer [has permission] to look inside
3. they serve as mere transportation devices
4. they become modules of para-architectural strength and suggest overtaking the space
5. we will always have a good argument when guardians of morality start criticizing the institution because we will show a penis or something: after lengthy negotiations with confused directors we will close just one box, not the entire exhibition, or we can make a movable cover or curtain (as Italians and Arabs do when exhibiting “confusing” Greek and Roman mosaics, I love this reference!) behind which “dirty” things will hide, permitting only adult viewers, I’m already shivering here!
6. we will need cases anyway to transport things!

Everything that happens on the walls could have both the elegance of good typography and something dodgy/punk/dirty in the way graphics, typography and choice of 2d images is done, it could also be somehow playful and coquettish.


Next week when?

A Visit With El Santo Taller de Cerámica (Bogotá)

*Spanish below

EN

LTIH: Do you prefer being called Sergio or El Santo? 

ES: You can call me anything, I like both, Sergio is the name that my parents gave me, and El Santo is the name that I gave to my work, I’ll tell you a little bit more about the story of El Santo.

I believe it is important to start by telling you that when I was very little my mother would scold me, saying in an ironic way: “you are a saint, you never do anything, absolutely nothing.” Hehehe. In our culture saints are important, and I confess that ever since I was a little boy I really liked the idea of saints as characters, beyond the religious, I like to think that there can exist beings with some type of magic power or presence, with a sensibility that can change things, make things, or achieve things. In religion, saints, and even God himself, are like superheroes who give their all for a better world. I think it is very beautiful for one to believe in something, and even to believe in something in order to live. So I got the idea that the saint could be this character that lives in me and that is manifested through art and drawing. Because I need to believe in him, in something.
And I believe that that is how the story of this character, or trademark, started in my art… And my saint really has fulfilled me, because I feel like, and I always tell my students, that I live the best version of Sergio, doing what I like best. 

LTIH: You work in ceramics. Do you work in other media? 

ES: I think that my work goes from illustration all the way to ceramics, or from ceramics all the way to illustration, it is a path that mixes up all the time, that comes together, that shows distances and parallels. I studied Graphic Design, and believe that that is very present in my work.

LTIH: I met you on a trip to Bogotá to visit Luciérnagas, a laboratory and project convened by Daniel Santiago Salguero. We met at the culmination or final ‘performance’ of the ten laboratories staged at the city’s Botanical Gardens. I made a joke about the ceramic penis pin you were wearing and learned that you had made it. You make ceramics at a studio where you also teach, El Santo Taller de Cerámica. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘operation’? What happens there? 

ES: EL SANTO Taller de Cerámica is a space for creation, with its key driving force being ceramics. It is made up by Sergio and by all of the super beautiful and cool people who participate in the studio, working or taking classes, and it is SUPER important to make that clear, because the space is not a private room in which the artist makes his/her own works completely independently, and almost cloistered. In the way that I work, the participants give it life and contribute to having the studio reverberate throughout the neighborhood. The networks that are built with the students, friends, artists, and different people who intervene in the day to day of the studio, all allow for it to continue existing, alive, and happy, offering a space like what I am describing, magic in how it can work our inner selves and our thoughts while we are being creative. 

Ceramics is full of processes, the nature of the material demands a series of time periods, which teaches us one of the things that is most difficult for us humans: to have patience. Above all in times like this. Before this crisis, it seems like we never had time for anything, and that we needed everything immediately. In art, that is very difficult, artistic and creative practices are full of understandings and processes with materials that you work on through a time of reflection. This is something fascinating about art, because it always demands time, and is a great lesson. Ceramics is no exception, it obligates you to work the material almost from zero, and if you don’t have ceramic paste or clay already, it is literally from zero.

LTIH: You are based in Bogotá, but from another part of Colombia. Can you remind me, and when did you move to the capital? 

ES: I am from Cartagena, from the Colombian Caribbean. For me the move to Bogotá was very important. In Cartagena I felt very lost and out of place, I did not feel like I was part of anything, I wanted to speak through my work but could not find the voice. Of course, at this point, I did not know that  these things are built with time. But I did know that I had to do something, a change that would produce a movement, and without a doubt, Bogotá was my best decision. In one way or another, I ended up setting up and forming a collective that would change my life, and together with another friend, my first serious collective project took off. In it, I learned many important things that I apply day to day, such as the love for this profession and the discipline that this loving relationship entails. I learned and learn each day to resist, to work with people, to be generous, and to try to be generous again the next day, with myself and with others. I learn everyday to believe in myself, to listen to myself and to value all of the decisions that I have taken and that have brought me here, as I have already said, living the best version of Sergio. I try to give this to people who come into contact with my studio and with my work in general, more than just saying in detail everything that I think and feel, more than just teaching the techniques and secrets that I have come to know about the material throughout these 11 years with the students. I want my work to offer ways, opinions, diverse situations, emotions, and possibilities of coming closer to a better version of ourselves. We construct this by working on our inner selves, through creativity. 

LTIH: Your work is nice … I pick up a lot of data when I look at your INSTA page (similar to our visit). Your work is sweet, ironic and political at once. Can you say what your politics are?

ES: Thank you! I really like it that you say its effect is sweet, ironic and political. I think that there is nothing more political than knowing how to express the various situations that surround us in our lives, and that is precisely where my work comes from. It is about how this 36 year old gay costeño lives in a country like Colombia, with the music that I like, my friends, popular sayings, things that I do not like, things that I do not agree with, things that we can work on, relationships. I think it is very important to generate, through different situations in life, actions that generate positive changes. For this, it is crucial that the things that surround you also reaffirm this purpose, for improvements in your world and in the world that surrounds you. When we change positively, we also affect the other, and then the other, and then the other, so in a country like Colombia, with a history of war and violence for more than 50 years, it is very important to know how to say: ‘no more!’ This is not okay, I am not going to be quiet, I do not want to be a witness, I do not want to participate in this violence, and I want to understand that we cannot hurt someone else for thinking differently, we cannot silence someone else because we do not like what he/she says, we cannot make someone else disappear because he/she is completely different from me. I cannot forget and leave aside someone else, because I want to control him/her completely and have it all to myself. We need to, as a society, generate a dialogue that permits us to understand and respect others’ many different situations, and bring the tools that we have over to what is possible, in order to be agents of change, positive change. Through simple gestures such as having solidarity with others and with yourself, or through our work, generating questions, emotions, reflection.

As a matter of fact, what better moment than the one that we are currently going through, to have us realize how fragile we are, that we all need a little bit of help, and some people a little bit more. As the lucky or unlucky people that we can become or already are, we realize that there are many things that are important and many that aren’t. We realize that we need each other and that we need to work so that things can be a least a little bit better. Because I believe in this. I do the work that I do, and make the pieces that I make, always with something positive, either in how it is elaborated, or by inserting some humor or sweetness that moves the spectator. For me, this is very important, and I have to confess that it is also the way that I like to approach people. I think that humor and sweetness encompass many important things that are directly related to intelligence and politics. I believe that it is the best way to use plastic tools with a critical and positive meaning. 

LTIH: And would you say that El Santo Taller de Cerámica is a political ‘space’? 

ES: Definitely, yes! It is a space of resistance through art, which works with people’s creativity for the construction of positive internal landscapes. 

LTIH: Can you tell us something new you are working on (maybe a collaboration with another artist)? 

ES: Sure, at this moment, besides working on my own pieces and moving the studio, I am making a piece with Fernando Arias, a Colombian artist, who is important for his political and activist content; I am also in a project that I am super in love with. Well, first I want to say that I have a super cool collective with some friends, called “Colectivo El Engaño,” and together we are working with the Red Comunitária Trans, in a project called TRANSMEMORIA, and as the name says, we work with trans memories of people who have been assassinated or violated for being Trans, for being prostitutes, and for the different circumstances that the guild finds itself under in society, in the city of Bogotá, more precisely in the Santa Fe neighborhood. 

I would like to tell you that to me, LA RED COMUNITÁRIA TRANS is incredible, the work they do is fantastic, how they do it, always with strength, intelligence, and without fear. They are always on their feet, always resting with joy and sensuality, and that moves me, it makes me passionate. I consider myself an ally and fan of the TRANS fight. First because it is completely violent and unjust, the fact that society arbitrarily does not allow you to be who you are or who you want to be, it seems to me like that violates all of a person’s fundamental rights. So, ever since we came into contact with them through the Engaño, we have been very moved by many things that we had ignored, and we have been fascinated with their strength and resistance. So with the Engaño, we have done some ceramic tiles that commemorate life, death, and in some way, the same neighborhood as a place of resistance. These tiles were taken from the neighborhood, at the exact spots where many girls were assassinated, in places where violence has been used against them, and places that are important to them for what they represent and for resistance. We have done this trans-prostitute-artistic action of memory and re-signification twice, and it’s been incredible for many reasons. Because we have worked together, because we have created networks. Because we have come together to leave a precedent saying that we have not forgotten our fallen sisters who we know have been assassinated, although the majority of the crimes are under a false silence. We are now more unified. We are speaking and screaming together that life is to be respected, that trans people’s lives are to be respected, and that no one has the right to impose violence onto them, no one has the right to forbid you from being who you want to be. Personally, I have learned to know and understand many very important things that I did not see before, and that have truly changed my life in a very positive way, giving me strength. The girls always fill you with empowerment and strength, so to surround myself and work with them through Engaño has been very beautiful and transformative. It fills me with a lot of pride and I feel very very happy to be part of something super magic, and for me it is moving and beautiful that they also recognize me as an ally. 

I think that together we can form a voice at the volume that is necessary for the love revolution.

BEST REGARDS AND KISSES!!!! 

_______________________________

ES

LTIH: Do you prefer being called Sergio or El Santo? 

ES: Puedes decirme de cualquier forma, ambas me gustan, Sergio es el nombre que me dieron mis padres y El santo es el nombre que le di yo a mi trabajo, te contaré un poquito sobre la historia de EL Santo. 

Creo que es importante empezar contando que cuando yo estaba muy pequeño y mi madre me regañaba siempre me decía de manera irónica: “eres un santo, nunca haces nada, nadita nada”  jejeje.  En nuestra cultura los santos son muy importantes y confieso que desde pequeño me gustó mucho la idea de los Santos, como personajes, más allá de lo religioso, me gusta pensar que pueden existir seres con algún tipo de poderes o presencias mágicas, con una sensibilidad que puede cambiar las cosas, hacer cosas o lograr cosas, en la religión católica los santos y hasta el mismísimo Dios son como unos superhéroes que lo dan todo por un mundo mejor, de todo eso me parece muy bonito que uno crea en algo y me parece además vital creer en algo para poder vivir, entonces me hice la idea que el Santo podía ser este personaje que vive en mí y que se manifiesta atreves del arte y diseño, en principio por qué yo necesito creer en él, en algo.  

Y creo que así empieza la historia de este personaje o marca con el arte… Y mira que mi Santo me ha cumplido por qué yo siento y siempre cuento a mis estudiantes, que vivo la mejor versión de Sergio, haciendo lo que más me gusta.  

LTIH: You work in ceramics. Do you work in other media? 

ES: Yo creo que mi trabajo va desde la ilustración hasta la cerámica, o desde la cerámica hasta la ilustración, es un camino que se mezcla todo el tiempo, que se junta, que muestra distancias y situaciones paralelas. Yo estudié Diseño gráfico y creo que es un hecho que es un hecho que está muy presente en mi trabajo. 

LTIH: I met you on a trip to Bogotá to visit Luciérnagas, a laboratory and project convened by Daniel Santiago Salguero. We met at the culmination or final ‘performance’ of the ten laboratories staged at the city’s Botanical Gardens. I made a joke about the ceramic penis pin you were wearing and learned that you had made it. You make ceramics at a studio where you also teach, El Santo Taller de Cerámica. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘operation’? What happens there? 

ES: EL SANTO taller de cerámica es un espacio de creación que tiene como motor principal la cerámica. Está conformado por Sergio y por toda la gente super bonita y bacana (like cool) que participa en el taller, trabajando o tomando clases, y esto es SUPER importante dejarlo claro, por qué este espacio no es una habitación privada donde un artista trabaja sus obras completamente independiente y casi enclaustrado. De la manera en la que yo trabajo, los participantes le dan vida y contribuyen a que el taller pueda latir atreves del barro, las redes que se construyen con los estudiantes, amigos, artistas y diferentes personas que intervienen en el día a día del taller permiten que el taller siga en pie, siga vivo y feliz ofreciendo un espacio como digo yo, mágico en el que se puede trabajar el interior y el pensamiento con y mientras somos creativos.  

La cerámica está llena de procesos, el material exige por naturaleza una serie de tiempos que enseñan algunas de las cosas que más nos cuesta a nosotros los humanos, y es tener paciencia, sobre todo en esas épocas y valga la pena decirlo así, que solíamos vivir antes de esta crisis, parecía que nunca teníamos tiempo para nada y que necesitábamos todo para ya, de entrada eso en el arte es muy difícil, las prácticas artísticas y creativas están llenas de entendimientos y  procesos con los materiales que se trabaja y momentos de reflexión. Eso del arte es fascinante porqué siempre exige tiempo y es una gran lección, y la cerámica no es la excepción, te obliga a trabajar el material, casi desde cero y si no tienes pasta cerámica o barro, desde cero literal. 

LTIH: You are based in Bogotá, but from another part of Colombia. Can you remind me, and when did you move to the capital? 

ES: Yo soy de Cartagena, del caribe Colombiano, para mí el cambió a  Bogotá fue super importante. En Cartagena me sentía muy perdido y desubicado, no me sentía parte de nada, quería hablar con mi trabajo pero no encontraba la voz. Claro en ese momento yo no sabía que esas cosas se construyen con tiempo , pero si supe que debía hacer algo, un cambio que produjera un movimiento  y sin duda Bogotá fue mi mejor decisión, de una u otra forma terminé armando y formando un colectivo que cambiaría mi vida y junto con otro amigo arrancó mi primer proyecto en colectivo serio, donde aprendí muchas cosas importantes que aplico día a día, como el amor por esta profesión y la disciplina que implica esta relación amorosa, aprendí y aprendo cada día a resistir, a trabajar con la gente, a ser generoso, y a tratar al día siguiente de ser nuevamente generoso, conmigo y con los demás, y aprendo todos los días a creer en mí, a escucharme y a valorar todas las decisiones que he tomado y qué me tienen aquí, como ya lo dije viviendo la mejor versión de Sergio. Y eso intento dar a las personas que tienen contacto con mi taller y con mi trabajo en general, más allá de contar con cada pieza lo que pienso y siento, más allá de enseñar las técnicas y secretos que conozco del material a lo largo de estos 11 años con los estudiantes, quiero que mi trabajo ofrezca maneras, opiniones, situaciones diversas, emociones y posibilidades de acércanos a una mejor versión de sí mismos.  Eso lo construimos trabajando nuestro interior con creatividad.  

LTIH: Your work is nice … I pick up a lot of data when I look at your INSTA page (similar to our visit). Your work is sweet, ironic and political at once. Can you say what your politics are? 

ES: Gracias! me gusta mucho cuando dices que es dulce e irónico y político en su defecto, creo que de entrada no hay nada más político que saber expresar las situaciones diversas que nos rodean en nuestra vida y precisamente de eso va mi trabajo,  de cómo vive este costeño gay de 36 años en un país cómo Colombia, en la música que me gusta, en los amigos, en los dichos populares, en las cosas que no me gustan, en las cosas con las que no estoy de acuerdo, en las cosas que podemos trabajar, en las relaciones. Yo creo que es muy importante generar a través de las diferentes situaciones de la vida acciones que generen cambios positivos, para esto es clave que las cosas que te rodeen también reafirmen ese propósito en pro de mejoras a tu mundo y al mundo que te rodea. Cuando cambiamos positivamente afectamos también positivamente al otro y el otro al otro, entonces en un país cómo Colombia con una historia de guerra y violencia de más de 50 años es muy importante saber decir, no más! eso no está bien, no voy a callar, no quiero ser cómplice, no quiero participar de esa violencia y entender que no podemos agredir al otro por pensar diferente. No podemos silenciar al otro porque no me gusta lo que dice, no podemos desaparecer al otro porque es completamente diverso a mí, no podemos marginar a los otros por qué sus decisiones y privilegios son diferentes a los míos. No puedo olvidar y dejar de lado al otro porque quiero controlarlo todo y quiero que todo sea para mí. Necesitamos como sociedad generar un dialogo que nos permita entender y respetar las situaciones diversas de los demás y aportar con las herramientas que tengamos en lo posible para ser agentes de cambios, cambios positivos, a través de gestos sencillos como ser solidario con los demás y conmigo mismo o a través de nuestro trabajo generando preguntas, emociones, reflexión.  

Inclusive qué mejor momento que el que estamos viviendo para darnos cuenta de lo frágiles que somos, que todos necesitamos un poco de ayuda y algunas personas un poco más, de lo afortunados o desafortunados que podemos llegar hacer o somos, nos damos cuenta que hay muchas cosas importantes y muchas que no, nos damos cuenta que nos necesitamos y necesitamos trabajar para que las cosas estén al menos, un poquito mejor. Porque creo en eso, hago el trabajo que hago y hago las piezas que hago, siempre con algo positivo. Ya sea por la manera en la que está elaborado o porque encierre algo de humor o ternura que logre mover al espectador, para mí esto es muy importante y debo confesar que además es la manera en que me gusta acercarme a la gente. Pienso que el humor y la ternura encierran muchas cosas importantes relacionadas directamente con la inteligencia y la política, creo que es la mejor manera de utilizar las herramientas plásticas con sentido crítico y positivo.  

LTIH: And would you say that El Santo Taller de Cerámica is a political ‘space’? 

ES: Definitivamente si! es un espacio de resistencia a través del arte, que trabaja con la creatividad de las personas para la construcción de paisajes internos positivos.   

LTIH: Can you tell us something new you are working on (maybe a collaboration with another artist)? 

ES: Claro, en este momento además de estar trabajando en piezas mías y estar moviendo el taller, estoy haciendo una pieza con Fernando Arias, artista colombiano, importante por su contenido político y activista;  también estoy  en un proyecto que me tiene super enamorado, bueno, primero quiero contar que yo tengo un colectivo super chévere con unos amigos que se llama “Colectivo El Engaño” y  juntos estamos trabajando con la Red Comunitaria Trans  en un proyecto que se llama TRANSMEMORIA, y como lo dice su nombre,  hacemos memoria Trans a diferentes  personas que han sido asesinadas y violentadas por ser Trans, por ser putas y por diferentes circunstancias en las que se encuentra el gremio en la sociedad, en la ciudad de Bogotá, más exactamente en el Barrio Santa Fe. Quisiera contar que a mí LA RED COMUNITARIA TRANS me parece increíble, me parece fantástico el trabajo que hacen, como lo hacen, siempre con fuerza, inteligencia, con o sin miedo siempre están de pie, siempre resistiendo con alegría y sensualidad y esto me emociona, me apasiona, me considero un aliado y fan de la lucha TRANS. De entrada porque es completamente violento e injusto que la sociedad arbitrariamente no te deje ser quién eres o quien quieres ser, eso me parece que atenta contra todos los derechos fundamentales de una persona. Así que desde que tuvimos contacto con ellas en el Engaño nos sentimos muy tocados por un montón de cosas que ignorábamos y quedamos fascinados con su fuerza y resistencia. Entonces hicimos con el engaño unas baldosas en cerámica que conmemoran la vida, la muerte y de alguna manera el mismo barrio como lugar de resistencia, estas baldosas las pegamos en el barrio en los lugares exactos donde fueron asesinadas muchas chicas, en sitios de violencia contra ellas y en lugares importantes para ellas por lo que representan y por resistencia. Esta acción trans puteril artística de memoria y resignificación la hemos hecho dos veces y ha sido increíble, por muchas razones. Porque hemos trabajado juntos, porque hemos hecho redes, porque nos hemos unido para dejar un precedente diciendo que no olvidamos a las hermanas caídas, que sabemos que fueron asesinadas y aunque la mayoría de los crímenes están en un falso silencio ahora estamos más unidos, hablando y gritando juntos que la vida se respeta, que la vida de las personas Trans se respeta y que nadie tiene derecho a violentarlas, nadie tiene derecho a prohibirte a ser quien tú quieres ser. Personalmente, he aprendido a conocer y a entender muchas cosas muy importantes que antes no veía y que de verdad me han cambiado la vida de manera muy positiva, me he llenado de fuerza, las chicas siempre te llenan de empoderamiento y fuerza, entonces llegar a acercarme y trabajar con ellas con el engaño ha sido muy bonito y transformador y me llena de mucho orgullo y me siento muy muy feliz de ser parte de algo super mágico, y para mí es muy emocionante y bonito que ellas también me reconozcan como un aliado.  

Creo que juntos podemos formar una voz con el volumen necesario para la revolución del amor.  

¡¡¡¡SALUDOS Y BESOS!!!! 

Pictures by: Sergio El Santo/El Santo Taller de Cerámica

Instagram: El Santo Taller de Cerámica

A preamble for shifting gears

[*After some meetings in NYC in February (2020), the LUV team set about a visioning process that should yield the project’s next phase–with a new level of clarity–by the middle of the year. We asked Brad Walrond to help us come up with a new introductory text (something like an artist statement), and we are gonna hold this back until we launch the next LUV. However, in our recent consensus-building process, Brad Walrond, Paula Nishijima and I all wrote (from where we were stood at that moment) about LUV. Here’s mine. xo Todd]

‘The institutions of our life are what hurt us’ says __ (still looking for reference:). This aligns with Michel de Certeau’s dichotomy of tactics and strategies, in which organizations of all sizes create broad sweeping strategies that individual people must create tactics in order to deal with at the single human level. 

I’d known the lefty, 30-50 million dollar-endowed foundation for ten years as a grantee and consultant, and was at the time of disclosing my HIV status working long hours for them as a staff director, but with a weak contract. I had forgotten my medication on a trip I took for the institution, and as my contract was up for renewal I asked for a cost of living allowance (COLA) type pay increase to pay for international / travel health insurance. As a permanent resident of Brasil and US citizen, my contract with the Canadian organization rendered me no more secure than others working in the gig economy, and categorically a freelancer despite being called the Director of Partnerships. This is actually illegal, but happens quite a lot; and which of the three countries’ laws might apply should I want to challenge the abrupt dismissal my disclosure was met with. 

I would say that the few months between dismissal and deciding to make another durational, rights-focused and multi-stakeholder artwork on HIV and related stigmas were my descent towards ‘rock bottom’. I’m in my mid 40s and so the notion of a mid-life crisis seemed to be a somewhat useful template. I hoped I would emerge from the darkness I felt, but I was perplexed as to how on paper the institution’s actions and its ‘social justice’ profile were at odds. Afterall I had developed HIV-related programming for the foundation. My boss, a gay man denied that this was the rationale, but before letting me go, he first cut my salary in half in response to the request for an incremental pay raise. Besides, the program I was managing was flourishing. While it would be hard to explain to my peers (and so I didn’t try to very much), I understood that somehow an HIV-related stigma had crept in and ravaged our decade-long relationship. I intuited that he was acting out of some sort of fear, but one that was layered, obfuscated and very hard to put a finger on. I saw close friends who I had brought on board during my leadership of the new flagship project side with the institution out of financial necessity (for they now had jobs that could be lost), and to this day I miss aspects of the friendship and peer-sharing that we (the boss and I) had built up over working together. As I started to come out of my shell and share with friends what I thought had happened, one of the first people I told, a medical doctor in São Paulo, responded with concern but also a chin-up retort that he had lost his job after mentioning his HIV status on a panel that I had convened/ produced for the the Queer City project I made with the foundation. I needed this reminder that yes indeed HIV still evokes quite strong and coded responses. And, that while medical technology has evolved HIV to a chronic disease, the obscured stigmas that still surround it date back to HIV as a death sentence, and a sexually-related one at that. Of course HIV is not always sexually related, but therein is proof of the inaccuracies stigma can foment. I thought of Sarah Schulman’s book Gentrification of the Mind in which she shows how HIV- gay men speculated on the apartments of dying HIV+ men in NYC’s East Village back during the emergence of the epidemic, and how this was compounded by the lack of gay marriage rights, which meant that leases were not transferrable to co-habitating partners. That the desirability of the chic real estate somehow trumped solidarity among gay men. 

I was quite certain that making an artwork on HIV would not be easy. However making work is my lifeblood and at least allowed for the juggling of my soul when it might otherwise atrophy over this incident. One day I felt my career was ‘on a role’ and the next (or less than a month later) I couldn’t even point to a ‘career path’. At this point I’d made a ten-year project on free expression and artist safety, and a five-year artwork on the right to the city but I’d never said or written much on what I perceived to be ‘my’ methodology. It was around that time that I chose to compile the words ‘durational’ and ‘multi-stakeholder’ and ‘rights-focused’ to describe /suggest this methodology and also introduce Luv ‘til it Hurts as the last in a three-part series. It would be the shortest (at two years), which since I knew it would ‘hurt’ (or rather be the most personal examination of any of the three) was a defense mechanism to make sure that I could endure the immersiveness of a durational project, and too I would need to conjure a blind faith in this methodology I had always just kept to myself. I would need to rely on its success rate in the previous two projects in order to imagine a third one. I would do something that hurt, but I would do it to survive and move on. 

I did not train to become an artist. I trained in other fields such as political science, public administration, community organizing and humanitarian assistance. At the point at which I began making art, I had already worked in present- and post-genocide contexts (Sudan and Rwanda), civil war environments and even HIV/AIDS public health settings mostly in Africa. I backed out of one thing and into art over a general disdain for the international development industrial complex that seemed infected with capitalist and nationalist interests. I would not call myself a militant artist, but would say that I always have one eye on the political economy of what I’m doing and that over time an ethical theory of justice came up in me. If what I’m doing runs counter to these values, I typically change course. I am a history buff by nature, and so art histories do not feel so different to me than political or religious ones. All that to say, that even if I didn’t ‘train’ to be an artist, I did do my homework before self-identifying as such.  The concept of a ‘social turn’ in visual arts has been playing out for about as long as I’d been calling myself an artist. For sure Luv ‘til it Hurts is about HIV and related stigmas, but it would also pick up on the institutional critique that had threaded my past projects, writing and consultancy work together for almost twenty-years since departing the field of international development. So while it is fair to say that I was angry about a recent event, I had also been accruing some constructive criticism for the ‘art world’ over a slightly longer period. 

My durational, multi-stakeholder, rights-focused projects are always imagined to continue after the ‘end date’ but not by my sole leadership, and they are rather open-ended. They do not say exactly where they are going. The timed-period of Luv ‘til it Hurts (what I now playfully term R&D) is almost over. I still maintain that the endgame for LUV will show ways of practically getting urgently-needed resources to artists/activists (grassroots) pursuits addressing HIV, but in the meantime, it takes the form of a curatorial intervention. 

What would you do tomorrow if it was the last day of your life (VIHda)?

“De Gris a POSITHIVO” Documental Autobiográfico de Juan De La Mar que hace parte de Luv ’til it Hurts, se encuentra seleccionado para “Media Library 2020 – Visions Du Réel, Festival Internacional de Cine de Nyon”.

“De Gris a POSITHIVO,” an Autobiographical Documentary by Juan De La Mar, who is part of Luv ’til it Hurts, has been selected for the “Media Library 2020 – Visions Du Réel, Festival Internacional de Cine de Nyon.”

Además, con este documental hemos sido seleccionadxs en festivales de cine LGBT como “CinHomo”, “Andalesgai”, “El Lugar Sin Límites”, “Yukasa”; y nos ha permitido hablar en diferentes contextos sobre el VIH.

In addition, with this documentary we have also been selected to LGBT film festivals, such as “CinHomo,” “Andalesgai,” “El Lugar Sin Límites,” “Yukasa;”

Los invitamos a ver y compartir este tráiler y a preguntarse ¿qué harían si mañana fuera su último día de VIHda? 

We invite you to watch and share this trailer, and to ask yourself: what would you do tomorrow if it was the last day of your life (VIHda)?

Para saber más sobre el proyecto:

To learn more about the project:

https://www.salmonproducciones.com/asesorias-y-alianzas/de-gris-a-posithivo.html

https://www.visionsdureel.ch/2020/media-film/de-gris-a-posithivo?fbclid=IwAR3JvAgpTERt_9ixbdHgteldt4OgfhPyCmYsEUCMs9vz5KAIj41spRIDcIM

Contacto:

Contact:

posithivoequipo@gmail.com

A pre-Covid 19 estimation of LUV

Brainstorming in New York at the Goethe Institut

[*From February 9-11, 2020, Luv ’til it Hurts was busy in NYC. LUV participated in Love Positive Women (a project by Jessica Lynn Whitbread) with a poetry and food-inspired event ‘LUV YEMANJÁ’. Food and a series of handmade porcelain candles were offered by artist Thiago Gonçalves and poet Brad Walrond offered a version of his work ‘1986’ paired with other poems to suit the occasion. On the following two days, a group including Jakub Szczęsny, Eric Rhein, Todd Lester, Brad Walrond, Paula Nishijima, Paula Querido Van Erven worked on the hopeful next phase of the LUV project. Within this process were statements describing the project from individual viewpoints, such as this one by Brad. xo Todd]

Luv ‘til it Hurts reminds us how proximal and interwoven our histories [are] regardless the presumed, apparent distances between the bodies, identities, and castes our worlds have suited for us. Perhaps in each [of] the futures we all must inevitably occupy, HIV/AIDS will have always been more metaphor than acronym; the Universe—even the portion that belongs to Us—is the occupant of an accident recovering it’s purpose. A virus expresses as much as it destroys; binds, deconstructs, creates, recreates its own kinds of becoming. 

That pleural vacuum into which it catapults us, it’s undertow of grief, stigma, loss, shame pulls us each closer towards a corporal remuneration of our otherwise carefully tilled, fiercely guarded boundaries. Perhaps we discover, by the sheer performance of survival, that the threads now begging us together, have been there all along. Survival here becomes the enactment of hope against hope—a remaking, a re-fashioning, a reconfiguring, a re-imagining of our lost and future selves. 

It is as if our bodies are made to become sites of discovery unto themselves. As if by force of opportunity and accident we infect a kind of prescience replicating inside an utterly human omen—being whomever we were cannot achieve us a habitable future. Perhaps living with and being impacted by some thing so summarily universal that has already changed the future, has already, by its sheer defiance, made its own impression on a species’ ambition and dreams, shows us life itself can be renewed. Shows us there must always be novel, crucial, life-giving ways for a human kind to rub and touch and agree.

Luv ‘til it Hurts as a moving recombinant collaborative show quite literally embodies the terror and the hope of this global pandemic. It represents unique opportunities to document and reveal global and parochial histories of the infected and affected while engaging communities in a viral generative praxis of encounter, transmission, deconstruction, reconstruction, remaking, reimagining and recovery.

                                                 —bw

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