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STILL BEGINNING: The 30th Annual Day With(out) Art

For the thirtieth annual Day With(out) Art, Visual AIDS commissioned STILL BEGINNING, a program of seven new videos responding to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic by Shanti Avirgan, Nguyen Tan Hoang, Carl George, Viva Ruiz, Iman Shervington, Jack Waters/Victor F.M. Torres, and Derrick Woods-Morrow.

The seven short videos range in subject from anti-stigma work in New Orleans to public sex culture in Chicago, highlighting pioneering AIDS activism and staging intergenerational conversations. Recalling Gregg Bordowitz’s reminder that “THE AIDS CRISIS IS STILL BEGINNING,”* 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.

The hour-long video program screened internationally at over 115 venues on/around December 1, 2019, World AIDS Day. See here for more information about screening locations.

Click below to watch individual videos from STILL BEGINNING. To watch the full program with Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Mandarin, or Polish subtitles, click here.

Want to learn more about the issues and ideas in each video? Read the resource guide online here.

Derrick Woods-Morrow, Much handled things are always soft

Much handled things are always soft unearths the unwritten and undocumented histories of public sex culture in the south-side of Chicago. Through conversation with longterm survivor Patric McCoy, the film traces the height of activity in the 1970s, the downfall of cruising culture in the 1980s, and the prevailing summer heat, which continues to linger. Together, McCoy and Woods-Morrow reflect on their relationship to cruising, to photography, and to each other; attempting to bridge the gap between what was, and what still remains to be explored.

Shanti Avirgan, Beat Goes On

Beat Goes On is an impressionistic portrait of the activist Keith Cylar (1958–2004), co-founder of Housing Works and a central figure in the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP) NY. Cylar spoke clearly, frequently and with moral force about the struggles of people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City, many of whom were impoverished and struggling with multiple social and medical problems. His openness about his own drug use and the centrality of the fight against the criminalization of drugs for AIDS activism make Cylar's legacy especially resonant and relevant at this time. A fellow harm reduction activist recalls how "Keith moved from mixing with the government, to threatening the government, to beating the government—all in the space of five minutes." By resurfacing and weaving together archival media of Cylar's own words and actions, this video will endeavor to convey—in the space of about five minutes—some of the personal charisma, political savvy and fearlessness that characterized Cylar's advocacy.

Carl George, The Lie

The Lie is the latest in an ongoing series of short films by Carl George drawing on found footage and materials from the artist’s archive. Offering “ruminations on ruined nations,” the film aims to expose the links between war, AIDS, capitalism, and the persistent mythologies that bind them all.

Viva Ruiz, Chloe Dzubilo: There is a Transolution

Viva Ruiz invites transgender AIDS activist, artist, and beloved friend Chloe Dzubilo (1960–2011) to speak via never before seen Hi-8 footage filmed by Chloe's then-partner Kelly McGowan in the 1990s. The process triangulates mother (Chloe), lover (Kelly), and child (Viva) in a deliberate ritual to uplift the spirit and legacy of an ancestral teacher. Through artifacts from the moment when video first became accessible and before mobile phone cameras became ubiquitous, we witness Chloe declare herself and her sisters as leaders in art, advocacy and culture for evermore.

Jack Waters/Victor F.M. Torres, (eye, virus)

Through an experimental collage of video and pictographs, (eye, virus) explores how conversations around disclosure, stigma, and harm reduction shift across generations and from public to private realms. Combining street interviews with footage from a punk show and a mobile testing site, the video centers pleasure and community as it expands the conversation around HIV to include hepatitis C and the opioid epidemic. (eye, virus) extends from documentation of a 2017 public program titled AIDS OS Y Version 10.11.6, and is collaboratively produced with Nikki Sweet.

Iman Shervington, I'm Still Me

I'm Still Me explores how digital platforms have created community and connections for Sian, a Black woman living with HIV and navigating the stigma and misinformation that is prevalent in the American South. Through her blog, social media accounts and online video platforms, Sian connects with (predominately) heterosexual Black women that send her messages, ask questions, and share their experiences with stigma and fear, all the while creating community that may have previously only existed in the shadows.

Nguyen Tan Hoang, I Remember Dancing

I Remember Dancing brings together an intergenerational cast of "trans and queer gaysians" ruminating on the past and future of AIDS, activism, gay culture, love, and (un)safe sex. Inspired by Joe Brainard’s I Remember poems, these confessions illuminate perspectives of queer Asian communities often absent from whitewashed narratives of HIV and AIDS. Grief, regret, longing, risk, and pleasure surface as their memories and fantasies blur into one another.

(Note: this video contains several minutes of flashing colors.)


*Gregg Bordowitz, The AIDS Crisis is Still Beginning (2019) was recently exhibited as part of "I Wanna Be Well," a retrospective curated by Stephanie Snyder for the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College and the Art Institute of Chicago. Hear Bordowitz discuss the work here.