The organizers of the Exhib/IT show at the VAV Gallery say Concordia students this year have truly captured the essence of AIDS activism with a diverse body of thought provoking art and innovative information campaigns.
“A lot of the students came into the course a year ago without a clear concept of what AIDS was and they have now produced this amazing breadth of work,” said Eric Berndt, one of the organizers of Exhib/IT and a TA of Concordia’s interdisciplinary course, ‘HIV/AIDS: Cultural, Social and Scientific Aspects of the Pandemic’.
Students were required to spend four hours per week on an internship at an AIDS organization and then write a research paper or create a work of art for the final exhibit. Twenty art projects were submitted for this year’s show.
From the very beginning, Exhib/IT was collaborative effort, according to Jason Crawford, the course’s other TA and organizer of the show. The students that took part in the production brought to the table their internship experiences and helped select compelling pieces that spoke about the complexities of the AIDS pandemic. There was a diverse spectrum of creativity in Exhib/IT as it featured a condom dress, excerpts of a play, a documentary video, photography and various elaborate installations. The pieces selected were meant to provoke questions and inform. For example, Beauty and the Beaver in Do yourself Dams is a video that promotes safe sex and mocks sexual representation in today’s society.
“There is something about art’s ability to represent complex ideas and to provoke new thought that is unique. Art can help us think about our bodies and understand gender and power relations in ways that other communicative acts cannot do,” said Crawford.
According to Crawford, art has to be a central part of the course because it has always been used as a powerful tool against the stigma, repression and isolation that usually accompanies HIV/AIDS. AIDS activists have always been creative when speaking about their experiences and students are encouraged to do the same.
“Students had to report on the progress of their projects, but they had no formal guidelines to follow. One student is even promoting a rave for her final project,” he said. “When she asked me if she could do it,” said Crawford, “my answer was. what couldn’t she do?”
‘Come Get Head, HIV AIDS Education and Destigmatization’ is the title of the rave put together by Nichol Viduka. The cocktail napkins at the rave will have HIV information on them and the bartenders will be wearing HIV+ t-shirts. There will also be stations in the venue that offer information on safe sex.
The Exib/it will be at the VAV Gallery from April 2 to 13. Nicole Viduka’s benefit rave is called the “Come get H.E.A.D.(HIV/AIDS Education And Destigmatization) Party”. It will be held April 28, 10 p.m. to 3 p.m. at 4445 St-Laurent. All proceeds go to ACCM. For more information visit www.myspace.com/headparty.