CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Krannert Art Museum will show seven short films in December on AIDS activism and the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
This is the third year Krannert Art Museum will present a film program commissioned by the New York-based arts organization Visual AIDS to recognize World AIDS Day. Previously, KAM screened the films over a two-day period, but this year the seven videos will play on a loop Dec. 2-23 in the collections study area in the lower level of the museum. For the first time, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts also will screen the films from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Dec. 2 at Stage 5 in the lobby.
Screening the films during December at Krannert Art Museum, including a day of viewing at Krannert Center, will provide audiences more opportunities to see them, said Amy Powell, the curator of modern and contemporary art at KAM. Powell recently was recognized for her work in amplifying LGBTQ voices, including bringing the Visual AIDS program to campus, when she received the Larine Y. Cowan Make a Difference Award from the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“Krannert Center is honored to have been invited to partner with our colleagues at Krannert Art Museum to lift up the artistry of these filmmakers and share their powerful narratives, which helps to broaden the discourse around this important issue,” said Mike Ross, the director of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts.
Visual AIDS first organized Day With(out) Art in 1989, and in 2014 it began commissioning short films to share stories about the AIDS epidemic. This year’s theme for the film program is STILL BEGINNING, taken from work by artist, AIDS activist and School of the Art Institute of Chicago professor Gregg Bordowitz. The seven new videos commissioned by Visual AIDS emphasize the persistent presence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
“The video program resists narratives of resolution or conclusion, considering the continued urgency of HIV/AIDS in the contemporary moment while revisiting resonant cultural histories from the past three decades,” according to the Visual AIDS website.
“I’m so pleased and taken with this program, and every year I’m reminded of its significance,” Powell said. “Visual AIDS’ annual program is to remember and memorialize all the people we’ve lost to AIDS, but also to take action, to learn about the issues and how folks can get involved.”
Powell said the films “showcase multiple questions and concerns, ranging from drug addiction and focusing on harm reduction and not punishment, to memorializing people or sites important in AIDS activism.”
A University of Illinois doctoral student in anthropology, Paul Michael Leonardo Atienza, is featured in one of the films. “I Remember Dancing,” by filmmaker and film and media scholar Nguyen Tan Hoang, is an intergenerational conversation in which gay, queer and transgender Asian men discuss HIV and AIDS and share stories of love, desire and loss.
“Visualizing narratives of HIV and AIDS has always been important in my own research and activism as a queer man of color. I thought this was a great way to participate in that type of discourse through art and through visual representation,” said Atienza, whose research examines how mobile digital media is used by gay Filipino men not only to connect with one another, but also to share stories and educate the public about HIV.
In the film, Atienza talks about his fears growing up that he would die young from AIDS and also about his decision to take an HIV-prevention drug. In his film submission, he mimicked a stereotypical gay dating app profile, with only his torso visible as he speaks.
Atienza said his perspective as a queer Asian immigrant from the Philippines will help challenge stereotypes of gay Asian men.
“Within the U.S. discourse on HIV and AIDS policy, there hasn’t been a lot of focus on Asian men. I think it’s great to provide another voice showing that all of us are affected by the legacies of this virus and disease, but we’re not equally getting the resources,” Atienza said. “The various stories and memories that the queer folks in the piece share will humanize the reality of our everyday lives.”
This year’s other films and filmmakers are:
“Much Handled Things Are Always Soft,” by multimedia artist Derrick Woods-Morrow, chronicles the cruising culture in 1970s Chicago, when men would cruise public places, particularly parks, looking for companionship and sex.
“Beat Goes On,” by documentary producer and archival researcher Shanti Avirgan, is a video portrait of AIDS activist Keith Cylar, who co-founded Housing Works, an organization providing housing for people living with HIV.
“The Lie,” by activist and experimental filmmaker Carl George, is a video poem describing his disenchantment with the American Dream and finding links between war, poverty, AIDS and capitalism.
“Chloe Dzubilo: There is a Transolution,” by artist Viva Ruiz, profiles musician and activist Chloe Dzubilo, who educated health care workers about the needs of trans women and sex workers. The film includes never-before-seen footage of Dzubilo filmed in the 1990s.
“(eye, virus),” by visual artists Jack Waters and Victor F.M. Torres, is an experimental video collage of information about HIV and risk-reduction strategies, looking at how conversations shift across generations and between public and private realms.
“I’m Still Me,” by filmmaker Iman Shervington, tells the story of Sian Green, a mother living with HIV who is trying to build an online community to share experiences of stigma and fear with other women in Louisiana, where black women are disproportionately impacted by HIV.
Original release: University of Illinois News Bureau