I admire Gregg Bordowitz’s commitment to art, education, and discovery and sharing of self amidst complicated and painful politics and diagnoses. It’s an incredible reaction to begin to deconstruct oneself and one’s identity amidst (what I can only imagine is) such turmoil. His artwork and purpose make me wonder how others channeled their feelings at the time of such unknowns for HIV+ people. How do you channel fear? Can you? Does Bordowitz’s work create or bring together community around these issues? Did he feel a particular responsibility to step up creatively in these ways, or was this activist, artistic drive inevitably integral to his being? These sort of projects (DIVA, ACT UP, Paper Tiger TV, Deep Dish TV) are necessary within a political and historical climate of alienation, abandonment, ignorance, and fear.

I’m really interested in how artists use their medium to discuss their own subjectivity. It is an incredibly personal endeavor, one in which they seem to give up their privacy and a measure of their personhood for their greater cause. OR are they creating their personhood within their art? I’m interested in how artists and activists organize and educate the masses – especially around such controversial and so-deemed “shameful” issues as AIDS was in the 1980s. How are individuals – like Keith Haring, whose art I have at the top of this post – able to create collective action?

I went to a Keith Haring exhibit recently in San Francisco, which was centered around his activism within certain movements and his works that corresponded. And I was struck especially by his buttons. He often drew in chalk in subway stations in the spaces next to advertisements, sometimes on the advertisements themselves, and whenever people came up to ask him about it he would give them one of his buttons. These buttons had his classic images on them and now are sold in museums and all over. But before any of his fame, receivers of the buttons were inducted into a strange community suddenly by nature of having one of these buttons: on the subway trains, if they saw someone else with a button they’d strike up conversation about the strange artist man they met who gave it to them, and sometimes they’d trade. I love this idea so much – how individuals can create a community around sharing and curiosity and art, even in little ways or with a button.

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One response »

  1. jonesa0913 says:

    I, too, like Haring’s technique for promoting collective action. I think what makes it so impactful is that the approach promotes horizontal, not vertical accountability, which is really empowering for those involved.

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