Visual AIDS & QUEER, ILL + OKAY present Documents: Art, AIDS & Activism in Chicago
Pride Arts Center, Chicago
Ranging from video diaries to documentary footage and oral histories, Documents: Art, AIDS & Activism in Chicago surveys thirty years of media production by activists, artists, and educators working against HIV and AIDS in Chicago. The screening program highlights specific histories ranging from early education and prevention efforts by and for black gay men to the influence of queer zines and comics, as well as presenting footage from three ACT UP/Chicago campaigns and reflections from women involved in the world’s longest running clinical research study on women living with HIV.
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion between filmmakers, activists, and curators Jennifer Brier, Alex Fialho, Cordelia McKnight, John Neff, Mary Patten, and Maxsonn Smith.
Documents: Art, AIDS & Activism in Chicago is part of a new Visual AIDS programmatic direction to extend our screenings, panel conversations and artist projects into cities beyond our New York City home. Thanks to QUEER, ILL + OKAY for their partnership on this Chicago screening.
RSVP for the free screening here. RSVP does not guarantee seating, which is first come, first served.
Maxsonn Smith Interviewed for Chicago Gay History, 2007 (4:57)
Video and interview by Tracy Baim
Maxsonn Smith reflects on organizing early HIV/AIDS education workshops for the African American gay community at Foster’s Bar and Martin’s Den in 1983, at a time when there was little discussion about AIDS in Chicago.
Short Fuse: The Story of an AIDS Activist, 1990 (excerpt, 15:54)
Directed by Rick Delaup and Sandra Quinn
Footage from ACT UP/Chicago’s 1988 “Target CTA (Chicago Transit Authority)” action, advocating for a sex positive safe sex ad campaign on city busses. Followed by footage of Danny Sotomayor (1958–1992) discussing his political cartoons.
Hokey Sapp Does SPEW, 1991 (excerpt, 7:32)
Camera and editing by Mary Patten; featuring Kate Schecter as Hokey Sapp; courtesy of Mary Patten and Steve Lafreniere
Scott Mendel, representing ACT UP and Queer Nation, and Robert Ford (1962–1994), founding publisher and co-editor of THING magazine, are interviewed at SPEW: The Homographic Convergence, the first international meeting of queer zine makers in Chicago, curated by Steve Lafreniere at Randolph Street Gallery in 1991.
Who’s Got the Power?, 1990 (2:30)
Produced by Suzanne Wright and Gerry Albarelli for DIVA TV
In 1990, ACT UP organized a national gathering in Chicago to target the American Medical Association, pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry. This video features footage from the Women’s Caucus Action protesting the lack of an AIDS ward for women at Cook County Hospital. The hospital began admitting women to the AIDS ward the next day.
Where’s ACT UP?, 1995 (excerpt, 6:15)
Directed and edited by Mary Patten; interviews by Debbie Gould and Jeanne Kracher
An investigation into ACT UP’s absence from the 1995 Chicago Gay Pride Parade. “Trying to get some confirmation of our own sense of loss, we asked people questions that we couldn’t adequately answer ourselves.” -Mary Patten
World AIDS Day Prison Demonstration, 1994 (8:24)
Camera: Andy Cross; editing: Mary Patten
ACT UP/Chicago’s Prison Issues Committee worked in coalition with prisoners with AIDS, former prisoners, and prisoners’ rights groups to educate and fight for the demands of HIV-positive people in prison. In this video, ACT UP confronts officials at the Illinois Department of Corrections who refused to acknowledge the exponential rate of HIV infections in Illinois prisons.
Tales of the Cranky PWA (“AIDS ain’t what it used to be!”), 2005 (2:50)
by Ferd Eggan (1946–2007)
Ferd Eggan, co-founder of ACT UP Chicago, delivers an acerbic reflection on the shifting realities of living with AIDS in the era of the “AIDS cocktail.”
I’m Still Surviving: 20 Years of the Women’s Interagency HIV Study in Chicago, 2017 (11:00)
by Jennifer Brier and Matt Wizinsky, with design assistance by Alexander Hayashi and Joshua Hill
Established in 1993, the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) is the United States' longest running clinical research study on women living with HIV. History Moves, a public history project directed by Jennifer Brier, collaborated with a group of WIHS participants in Chicago to record their experiences. Their overlapping personal narratives, pieced together by designer Matt Wizinsky, produce a collage of social inequities and injustices as well as forms of self-care and personal liberation—a mosaic of recent and contemporary urban life.
Jennifer Brier directs the Program in Gender and Women’s Studies at UIC. She directs History Moves, a community-curated mobile gallery, that provides space for Chicago-based community organizers and activists to share their histories with a wide audience. The current project is “I’m Still Surviving” a multimedia presentation of the women’s history of HIV/AIDS. The exhibition focused on Chicago, “In Plain Sight” has been in five neighborhoods in Chicago, south, west and north.
Alex Fialho, as Programs Director at Visual AIDS, facilitates projects around both the history and immediacy of the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic, with particular stakes intervening against the widespread whitewashing of HIV/AIDS cultural narratives. He is a Brooklyn-based independent curator and arts writer, frequent contributor to Artforum, and an Interviewer for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic Oral History Project.
John Neff produces artworks, organizes exhibitions, and works as a teaching artist. He is a founding member of Chicago’s Iceberg Projects, worked as a consulting curator to Art AIDS America Chicago at the Alphawood Gallery, and is co-editor of the recently published Militant Eroticism: The Art+ Positive Archives.
Mary Patten is an artist, activist, and writer. She was one of the founding members of ACT UP Chicago, after early AIDS activism with CFAR (Chicago for AIDS Rights) and DAGMAR (Dykes and Gay Men Against Reagan, Repression, the Right Wing...) She teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the departments of Film, Video, New Media and Animation and Visual / Critical Studies.
Max Smith is a writer, in Windy City Times newspaper, Blacklines magazine and STAYING POWER, a book he wrote/edited in 2004, in which he advocated frottage as a way for men, regardless of HIV status to deeply enjoy sexual intimacy without worry about HIV transmission. Smith's essay "December 1, 2031: AIDS at Fifty," gives details and particulars of how he believes the HIV epidemic among same gender loving men can end, published in the anthology Black Gay Genius: Answering Joseph Beam's Call, edited by Steven Fullwood and Charles Stephens and published in Vintage Entity Press.
Visual AIDS thanks the Alphawood Foundation, Chicago as well as our other generous funders for their support of our public programs. Visual AIDS would also like to thank Lori Cannon, Tracy Baim, Solveig Nelson, John Neff, Danny Orrendorf, Victor Salvo and John (JC) Peterson for their coordination of videos for the program.