The best way to fight discrimination is with education, to replace confusion with understanding and intolerance with love. The students behind the 17th annual HIV/AIDS awareness exhibition plan to do this through an art exhibit cleverly named HIVer. It’s designed to inform Concordia students about the AIDS pandemic and highlight the struggles of those who live with HIV/AIDS experience.
The theme this year â€” winter, or hiver â€” was chosen by curator Emily Kirkman and her team of interns. The name and the premise that goes along with it were chosen to represent a time of transition and the change from winter to spring as rebirth. Inspiring the chance to start new, the exhibition’s theme sheds light upon the lack of understanding and awareness surrounding the virus.
According to organizer and artist Bev Herscovitch, the show is meant to incite “a beautiful attack on the senses.” The communications student said that the show promotes a variety of perspectives on the subject of HIV/AIDS. Each artist brings something different and unique, touching upon varying issues concerning the virus.
There is a performance piece: a one-man show involving near nudity that promises to break the boundary between public and private life by showing vulnerable acts in public spaces.
The array of multimedia projects, which includes audio, projections, installations, paintings and collages, were done mostly by Concordia students, with the exception of the contribution by Audio Smut Collective, the monthly radio show on sexuality that operates out of McGill University. Many of the participating artists are students in fine arts, and students who took a yearlong course offered by the fine arts department about HIV/AIDS. Spectators cannot expect anything less than passionate works of arts, fueled by the knowledge and understanding that these artists have gained concerning the disease.
The projects depict the artists’ personal feelings surrounding the disease and the struggles that people with HIV/AIDS face. Project director of HIV/AIDS Concordia Thomas Waugh said, “Over the years, we’ve seen everything from prevention posters made out of condoms to autobiographical videos.” For HIVer, Herscovitch created “Direct Colour,” an informational colouring book that highlights the lack of accessibility to honest information about sex, specifically when it comes to HIV, for teenagers and young adults. Herscovitch hopes that by engaging viewers and making them a part of the piece, it will broaden their understanding about HIV and reduce the stigma that surrounds the virus. Through a playful medium that addresses a serious topic, it will give spectators a chance to participate and have control over what they want to learn.
Other works address the discrimination and confusion surrounding those who live with HIV. As an act of resistance to the narrow-minded in our society, the artists give those living with the virus a chance to have their voices heard through depictions of their personal stories. Some artists aim to criticize the glamorization of the virus due to HIV advocacy, which has had the effect of portraying certain people as victims in need of help while others are disregarded and seen at fault.
Kirkman, who began working on the project last September, said that she is personally invested in the subject matter. “With this event, we are hoping to raise HIV/AIDS awareness in the community and get more people involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”
Free food and wine will be served at the vernissage, which is open to Concordia students as well as the general public. The event will open your eyes to beautiful art pieces, but will also help demystify the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
HIVer will run at VAV gallery, 1395 Rene Levesque W., from April 4 to 9. The vernissage will take place on April 7 at 7 p.m