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But now we have to go back to the early 80s to find a different trajectory for

gay artists. Unfortunately, gay men were the first hit in the epidemic. Because

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of discrimination, AIDS became a political as well as public health struggle.

Historically now, all of these are inextricably linked.

Reagan Administration’s Chilling Response to the AIDS Crisis

We were NOT ‘all in this together…’

Why? Listen…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yAzDn7tE1lU&fbclid=IwAR0slCndyI9AUdFT7QNBAl5d49CR0jNthBF7L9zw5OFC2lxmGYQRuLoF328


Wall Street Die-In, late 80s. /

Gay activists, many putting their art careers on hold, resorted to performance art/street

theater strategies to call attention to the disease and the need for drug research.

ACT UP ‘zap,’ Paris, 1993

‘Zaps’ were staged for the media, such as this appearance of a huge condom on a

Paris street obelisk, encouraging safe sex.

David Wojnarowicz, Iolo Carew, 1988-89 and Untitled (face in dirt), 1990

See Article and Videohttps://www.artandobject.com/articles/david-wojnarowicz-context

Wojnarowicz resorts to

performance art as a powerful

protest against government

inaction, pharmaceutical

companies’ corruption and

majority indifference.https://www.aidsmemorial.org/quilt-history

Family and friends would sew panels for

their loved one, often offering comfort

in their mourning.

New York City Dept. of Health, 1980s

Tibor Kalman Benetton Ad Campaign Oliviero Toscani

The case of Benetton is very interesting: an Italian casual-wear company that launched an ad

campaign with no images or mention of their clothes. Instead, they would address the controversial

social and political issues of the day. This came to be known as ‘shock advertising.’ Have a look…

Oliviero Toscani,

Benetton ad, 1992

Oliviero Toscani, Benetton ad, 1992

Must-watch Videohttp://100photos.time.com/videos/therese-frare-face-aids

TBWA, Aids Awareness France, 2005

It took 15 years to find drugs that really worked (as compared with

Covid-19, which took 10 months.) By 1996, new medications were

available which helped manage the virus as a chronic illness rather

than a death sentence.

Happily, artists were able to move on…

• 690,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2019.

• 75.7 million people have become infected with HIV since the start

of the epidemic.

• 32.7 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the

start of the epidemic (compared to 2.7 from Covid-19.)

Oliviero Toscani, Benetton ad, 1992


Question #2 – Please watch the 1984 Academy Award-winning

documentary The Times of Harvey Milk. (Be sure not to mistake

it with the 2008 feature Milk, starring Sean Penn.)

In an extended discussion, tell us what you thought of the film,

and whether you think documentaries (as opposed to narrative

feature films) are an effective form of social activist art?

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