featured gallery for August 2004

Civil Disobedience

As a form of protest, civil disobedience defines a varied set of techniques involving non-violent action to demand change in policy at the highest levels of power. With the Republican National Convention poised to stream into the living rooms of millions of Americans, the voice of dissent will also fire up. For AIDS activism, the act of protesting has doubled as a site of public mourning and commemoration. Collective action is transformative of self, affective and emotional. The pride parades taking place internationally, demonstrate how an act of resistance can, over time, transform into a collective act of celebration.

I have chosen images from the Frank Moore Archive Project at Visual AIDS that define this transformation using video and photographic mediums. These artists and activists are part of the action, armed with the camera. Their task is to record. But the photographer and camera also act as a catalyst for change.

W. Benjamin Incerti's photograph of an early AIDS protest documents the aggressive theatricality of some of the most effective demonstrations. The sit-in of the civil rights movement is transformed into a virtual death-in with mock tomb stones and grim reaper drag.

Stephen Andrews' image transfers gather individual portraits into crowded groups. The work's filmic quality binds each face to form a blurred collectivity while also allowing each individual to maintain her presence, no matter how liminal.

In Angel Borrero's 1973 inked photograph it is the buildings themselves that seem to protest the containment of something interior -- the corporate worker's plea for help from the repressive forces of homophobia.

Derek Jackson's "performance graffiti" in this instance takes place in Gracie Mansion's East Village gallery. He takes his activist theater into the gallery or museum to infuse the space with the critical verve of a marginalized subject.

Frank Green fragments his body into photographic parts and arranges them into a grid. This re-arrangement of the body disciplines it into an object of both aesthetic and scientific study.

John Lesnick names his video stills "artifacts" to call attention to the ephemeral nature of the video medium and the event documented. High contrast and saturated color forces the image itself into a state of disobedience and un-readability.

Martin Wong's painting, "Puerto Rican Day Parade," reminds us that the parade is a celebration that has its roots in the carnival and in revolutionary struggles for independence.

Yolanda, a satirical folk singer in drag, reminds us that in 1969 drag queens were the catalyst for civil disobedience, while now transvestites have been relegated to the margins of a queer juridical struggle for marriage and the military.

Also included is work by Joe De Hoyos, Brent Nicholson Earle, Tseng Kwong Chi, Stephen Varble and David Wojnarowicz.