1

Visual AIDS is excited to announce our newest staff member, Constantine Jones (also known as "Cea" pronounced as sea). They are an artist member, poet, and educator, who will be working to support artist members participating in the oral history project, “The Body As an Archive”.

I have been working with Visual AIDS in many capacities over the years--from supporting the annual Postcards From The Edge benefit show to serving on the Archives Committee--and I couldn’t be more excited to officially join the team! When Tracy Fenix welcomed me into the Artist+ Registry in 2018, I felt suddenly embraced by so many newfound ancestors and kin. I have always been a storyteller by nature, and as a young queer poet newly living with HIV, the ability to connect with other artist members’ work across lines of time, space, geography, race, gender and sexuality has been and continues to be a sacred gift. In my own creative work, I am particularly inspired by the concepts of chosen lineage, anniversaries and our marking of time, collective memory, and the various versions of histories we have lived and futures we might create. For that reason especially, working to support fellow artist members participating in “The Body As an Archive” is incredibly fulfilling.

I hold an MFA from The City College of New York (CUNY), where I facilitate creative writing workshops and English composition courses as an Assistant Adjunct Professor. Additionally, I have designed and led workshops in poetry, storytelling, and interdisciplinary artforms for such organizations as Brooklyn Poets, The Operating System / Liminal Lab, and Housing Works. In 2019 I worked to research and digitize archival material concerning the intersection of HIV/AIDS with Greek-American histories for the LGBT Center Archives, and in 2020 my first book, a chronicle of three generations of a Greek-American family in rural East Tennessee called In Still Rooms, was published by The Operating System. I also remain an active member of the collective, What Would An HIV Doula Do?, where I have collaborated on a number of projects, resource guides, and other social engagement actions to continue interrogating how we can reimagine and enact care for ourselves and each other while navigating a world which disproportionately devalues and stigmatizes people living with chronic illness.

One thing that excites me most about working with oral histories is that, like poetry, the spoken accounts of peoples’ lived experience handed down through generations is a communal practice that has been integral to so many cultures over the course of human history. For this particular project, “The Body As Archive,” it feels especially important and appropriate to reflect that tradition by first prioritizing the narratives of Black folks, Indigenous peoples, and other underrepresented communities of color, as well as long-term survivors of HIV and AIDS.

Moving forward, I am excited to connect with so many artist members and work towards creating environments of support and care in order to steward their stories into the world. It is my most sincere ambition that this project can work to shift our understanding of HIV and AIDS as not merely one history existing only in the past, but as a series of interconnected histories that is still ongoing. This is an exciting beginning to what I feel could blossom into an even more expansive process of archiving and documenting the experiences of artists living with HIV in their own words, not just in New York City, but across the globe.

-- Constantine Jones, Oral History Project Liaison

Note to artists & community: Constantine "Cea" (they/them) will begin mid-December 2021!

Cjones Headshot

Constantine Jones