featured gallery for September 2016

2016, 1996

John Paul Ricco's web gallery "2016, 1996" is the result of a collaboration between Visual AIDS and Drain: A Journal of Contemporary Art and Culture for the journal's special issue on "AIDS and Memory" (Issue 13.2), edited by Ricky Varghese.

The Go-Go Boys were the first to go. After that, we were afraid that the rest of us would disappear too. We did. But then again, we didn’t. Not exactly. Or at least not then, or not yet.

The story of AIDS has been a lesson of the double. Not of absence/presence, visibility/invisibility, or memory/forgetting, but the double of living on, of becoming-imperceptible, of forgetting that we forget. Not the unifying space of coupling, but the separated spacing of sharing in that which cannot be shared. Not the chronological time of history, but the a-temporal disjunct simultaneity (Haver) of time’s temporal dilation. Which is also to say: time’s irreparable disjuncture and thus its perfection. Time and the untimely timing of time. The encounter of proximity as the sense of the same time, just a little bit different. Too soon and too late, at once. Not the chronos of alterity but the kairos of the opportune moment—if not of opportunity or the opportunistic.

Traversing and yet other than—or irreducible to—bodies, the human, friendship, community, and life. Instead, it is the “absolute luminescence” (Haver) of the empty readymade; of "the sex appeal of the inorganic" (Perniola via Benjamin), but also of a certain “disenchanted fetishism” (Haver) that is as much attracted as it is repulsed by the essentially “entropic solitude of things” (Haver). A colour, a line, a knot, a last address, a hieroglyphic abstraction, glitter, rubber, a frayed edge, the impasse and its slender opening—all of these and other lures.

AIDS Doubles

1981 Bio-Political Oblivion - 1987 ACT UP Fight Back Fight AIDS - 1988 Pictures of People with AIDS - 1996 The End of AIDS - 1996 Disappeared - 2002 SARS - 2009 H1N1 - 2014 PREP - 2016 Undetectable -

“AIDS and Memory”—that double—is the provocation to return to “disappeared,” the art exhibition that I curated twenty years ago, in 1996, that was about the refusal to represent and the persistence of appearance in the midst of incalculable loss and death. 1996: when someone audaciously declared the “end of AIDS,” and the time just before I read Haver’s The Body of This Death for the first time, and realized that I would forever remain beholden to—yet would never come close to doubling—the singular and uncompromising rigor of his thinking on the inconsolable perversity of existence. Meaning: what remains unimaginable and unknowable, unforgettable and un-rememberable. What queer theory remains largely unable to comprehend, and what dominant AIDS discourse will never allow.

This is about absolute memory. Absolute memory is the memory of the outside: beyond the archive, the clinic, the march, the oeuvre, the grave. We might say that absolute memory is at one with forgetting. For as Deleuze said, “Only forgetting recovers what is folded in memory.” Which also means that the forgetting of forgetting is at once the source and sense of memory, and the impossible memory (i.e. the forgetting that cannot be remembered).

“2016-1996” is the double of “disappeared,” and thus its own preservation of the infinity of the aesthetic task. As Ann Smock once wrote: “To see something disappear: again, this is an experience which cannot actually start. Nor, therefore, can it ever come to an end.” In their tracing of time and its erasure, the images and scenes assembled here belong neither to memory nor to forgetting per se, but to the disappearance of the present.

"It’s not over" is what the double tells us.

John Paul Ricco


August 2016

Note: I am hoping that through my brief meditation on the double, time, and disappearance, that someone reading the text will then notice the many pairings and doublings presented by the works, along with an equally recurring sense of the emptiness, withdrawal and erasure that punctuates the present of the everyday.