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18 September 1992 —
18 October 1992

Implicated and Immune:
Artists’ responses to AIDS

Implicated and Immune: Artists

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‘In 1981 the aids epidemic burst into our newspapers and our consciousness as the ‘mystery killer disease’. Eleven years later it continues to evoke powerful fears, suspicion and, often, anger’.

– Warren Lindberg, Director New Zealand Aids Foundation

While it has been quite common for galleries to seek artistic interpretations of HIV/AIDS overseas, there has been a virtual absence of exhibitions in Aotearoa New Zealand that have sought contributions by artists on this issue. Implicated and Immune: Artists’ responses to AIDS occurs at a time when, more than ever, artists and audiences need to be involved in one of the greatest crises ever known.

Aids is not just a sexually transmitted disease that has no known cure. Rather it is an epidemic, a movement, a friend’s death. How an individual comes to understand the effect of aids is through a variety of information, images and interpretations. For many people is has come to mean fear, anger, suspicion and confusion. While there may be criticism of government or health agencies to respond to the impact of aids, there has been little involvement by artists and writers to articulate the signs of the disease, as it spreads into our collective subconscious.

Unlike dominant museum practice which consciously segregates and defines particular audiences for a particular cultural or promotion event, no specific audience has been defined for this exhibition. The underlying condition of Implicated and Immune is to provide the circumstances for artistic discourse to occur. There was no intention to develop a single voice to represent any single interest group. One audience will implicitly learn and share from another. Through a series of informal discussions, the Gallery brought together aids agencies and the participating artists. The crossovers and discussions that resulted were beneficial; articulating feelings and fears and a consensus for action.

The words ‘implicated’ and ‘immune’ belong to the language of the dominant majority, commandeering a discursive space around aids. This sets up an exclusionary barrier between those that are apparently safe – the immune – and the other – those implicated by aids. By asking artists to interpret the mythologies surroundings AIDS it is hoped that a better understanding will be created. Douglas Crimp’s remark remains the most pertinent conclusion that ‘art does have the power to save lives, and it is this very power that must be recognised, fostered, and supported in every way possible. But if we don’t do this, we will have to abandon the idealist conception of art. We don’t need a cultural renaissance; we need cultural practices actively participating in the struggle against aids. We don’t need to transcend the epidemic; we need to end it.’ [1]

[1] Douglas Crimp, ‘Aids: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism’. October 43, p 7.

Events

An example of a Names Project Quilt recently exhibited in the Aotea Centre on display at the Pakuranga Plaza 21st – 23rd September, 1992. These are quilts that have been made as memorials to commemorate those people who have died of AIDS.

A panel discussion on ‘Censorship and the Arts’ held on 15th October 1992, including Carole Shepherd (Tutor, Elam School of Fine Arts), Arthur Everard (former Chief Film Censor), Fiona Clarke (artist), Ron Left (Artists Alliance), Steve Lovett (artist), Shane Broomhall (AIDS activist), Athina Tsoulis (writer and director of short films) and Louis Johnston (Curator, Fisher Gallery).

A series of painting workshops taken by Jonathan Else held on October 3rd ‘Draw Yourself: Self portrait for self esteem’, and October 4th ‘Your Body – Your Life’.

Sources

Fisher Gallery Press Release
Implicated and Immune: Artists’ responses to AIDS, Fisher Gallery, 1992.

Press

Artists in aid mission – Stuff
A Gentle Communion: Considering 'Sleeping Arrangements' – The Pantograph Punch
To queer or not to queer: What can galleries do to address homophobia? – The Spinoff

Further

Implicated and Immune, 2015 – Michael Lett
Sleeping Arrangements, 2018 – The Dowse