featured gallery for August 2017


VOICE = SURVIVAL is an exhibition that examines voice as a medium and a metaphor used by artists and activists to confront oppression amid the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic. The exhibition resets the iconic SILENCE = DEATH rallying cry, proposing a relationship between vocal empowerment and the fight for individual and communal survival. Ranging from documentary recordings and archival materials to contemporary art, the works presented in the show capture the cultural expressions and interventions employed during the height of AIDS activism, linking to anti-oppression movements before and after the period. The exhibition explores the entanglement of the voice and its absence with battleground concepts in HIV/AIDS activism such as agency and citizenship, language and representation, and inter-subjectivity and the body.

On view from June 15 – August 11, 2017, VOICE = SURVIVAL is curated by Claudia Maria Carrera and Adrian Geraldo Saldaña for Visual AIDS, presented by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation at The 8th Floor. The show features an exhibition brochure with two essays by the curators, who have curated an additional selection of artworks from the Visual AIDS Artist+ Registry for the August web gallery.

This web gallery is an extension of the exhibition VOICE = SURVIVAL, drawing upon works and artists not featured in the exhibition at The 8 th Floor to consider voice as an embodied, breath-borne form of expression. The featured works mobilize the connections of voice and breath with the body and sexuality to explore biological and spiritual survival in the context of AIDS.

The web gallery opens with works by Robert Flack, Jerry the Marble Faun, and Shan Kelley that highlight the body parts involved in breathing and voice production and explore their connection to vital and erotic energies. David Wojnarowicz’s iconic “One day this kid” text-based work captures the forms of oppression that brutally silence those whose sexuality and speech is deemed deviant. These initial images highlight how the oral blockages depicted in the subsequent works by Wojnarowicz, Ali, and Guy Burch suppress erotic practices and vital processes alongside vocal expression. The works by Andy Fabo, Leslie Kaliades, and Richard Sawdon Smith that follow explore how such suppression of oral functioning is enacted by the AIDS-enabled infections that ravage the respiratory system.

Next, the web gallery explores the entanglement of sero-positivity and silencing, moving from Sawdon Smith’s connection of oral blockage with disinfection to works by Jessica Whitbread, Derek Jackson, and Andrew Zealley depicting the extension of barrier methods to air and sound. The subsequent works by Clair Walton more abstractly invoke silencing through the obstruction of air and sound, the latter specifically in a feminine domain, while those by Ian Richards use sound to explore both the loss of voices from the past without proper transmission to the present and the inability to sever the connection with a virus that will linger undetectably “forever more.”

The web gallery then turns to the reparative potentials of vocality, exploring its relation to ecstatic experience and its capacity for revivification in works by Zealley and Fabo. The subsequent works by Rebecca Guberman-Bloom, Daniel Roberts, and Shan Kelley connect the movement of air with spiritual preservation, with Kelley’s work also using text to this end. The closing image by dan glass depicts a young activist’s revivifying speech act, through which his voice enables survival for those past and present alike.

To celebrate the culmination of VOICE = SURVIVAL, Visual AIDS and The 8th Floor will host an Artist & Curator Tour of the exhibition as a closing event on Friday, August 11, 2017 from 6:30pm–8:30pm. VOICE = SURVIVAL is a call to arms, challenging the viewer to continue the fight in a moment when the hard-won rights achieved by progressive communities are once again at risk, in a moment when voices united can and will change the course of our history.