Walking up the escalators in the Hall building, its hard to miss the sexy photos hanging from the ceiling.
Displayed for all Concordia to see are pictures of men and women, half naked, some provocatively touching each other, with red liquid dripping down their hands.
The photos are an advertisement for the 16th edition of the HIV/AIDS awareness gallery entitled IN+ BODY and according to one of its curators, the exhibit is meant to incite curiousity and even be sexy.
“I think that we wanted to be a bit provocative and grab attention,” said 21-year-old curator Stephanie Goulet. “I think it’s unfair to say that pictures can’t be sexy, just because you’re talking about HIV and AIDS. Sexuality is a big part of the discussion and why would you want to take sexuality away from that?”
The Concordia art history major is curating the event as part of an interdisciplinary HIV/AIDS course, with the overarching goal to bring awareness to a disease that is still misunderstood.
The theme of this year’s exhibition, showcasing multimedia, sculpture, painting, photography, and performance art among others, deals with preconceptions about HIV/AIDS and the stigmatization that surrounds it.
“It’s really about stripping away social stigmatization, to display interconnectivity of HIV/AIDS and sexuality, gender, race and class,” Goulet said. “Basically, how they all intertwined.”
An art piece that Goulet says encapsulates the exhibit’s concept well is a performance piece by Roving Party Machine, a group partaking in “performative catering.”
The group will be serving red slushies during IN+ BODY’s vernissage on April 1. The waiters, who will be wearing white, will discretely spill red slushie on themselves while serving the drinks.
“We are working with the idea of contamination, sort of disrupting the social norm of the space,” said one of Roving Party Machine’s creators (who refused to give her name, as she claims the group is its own entity). “It will walk the line between overtly performed as a gesture or being understood as existing accidentally.”
The point of the red slushie, Goulet said, is to gauge how viewers react to the idea of contamination.
“As they serve slushies, it gets on their white outfits, and a persons automatic reaction is to pull away, like contaminated blood that people want to pull away from,” she said. “The whole meaning is to examine the unconscious aspect of it.”
There is also a variety of artwork that comes directly from those who know people who have suffered or are suffering with HIV/AIDS. One piece that stands out in particular for Goulet is from the daughter of a man who contracted HIV in the 1980s, when the disease was still in its infancy in North America. The point of the piece is to show that her father, who has since passed away, was not just an infected person but a loving person like anyone else.
“The piece is based on a whole projected image, where it seems [HIV/AIDS]to almost takes over your identity,” Goulet explained. “Yes, he was a gay man and yes he died of AIDS, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that he was a beautiful person and a loving father who had friends and family.”
Goulet said that most of the artwork is shocking and raw. She says the easiest way to change a viewer’s perspective is by grabbing their attention.
“At the very least people will leave [the exhibit] with a sparked interest in [HIV/AIDS], Goulet said. “If one person leaves with a new perception, we’ve succeeded.”
Concordia will be hosting its 16th annual HIV/AIDS awareness art exhibition at the VAV Gallery (1395 Rene-Levesque W.) between March 29 and April 9. The vernissage will be held on Thursday April 1, between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.