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Truthfully, I thought nobody had seen them until Doug Crimp brought them up when he interviewed us for Artforum 10 years later. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And we were given a page by the Bessie committee. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: No, this was not a period when, A) it was that easy to get tested or commonly known that one could get tested, and then people in the AIDS community were resistant to it because there was no protections for the results. "Read my lips. You didn't have to have a—it was wild, and a lot of it created a tremendous amount of failures, and a lot of people were subsumed by their failures. CYNTHIA CARR: Mhm. INTERVIEW Soy. Actually it would say in here. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Well, the thing about ACT UP—and I think anyone who will—who you speak to about it will say that every waking moment was—I mean, we went to meetings every night of the week. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Only in Manhattan. So they would have—I can't really think of any of the ads, but they—as a consequence, this tableau format of a horizontal bus side ad was very useful, because it almost read like a film strip, and you could have multiple faces, representing people of multiple ethnicities and races, across the side of a bus. CYNTHIA CARR: Yes, let's see. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: It goes on with feminist questions. And these stores were so proliferate, they were like Starbucks are now. And the only one within those parameters that the Herstory Archives produced at that time, which they felt fit that parameter—that was it definitely a lesbian image. Was there any—. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And so, I feel like there are two institutional uses for the story of HIV/AIDS. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: They were actually this way—. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: We used that strategy with some frequency. It was defaced and it was—. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And she's looking longingly at her. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: —discuss the fact that women were at risk for AIDS. There is footage of it in United In Anger, but I can't recall. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: It was in relation to the Bessie's, acknowledging the performative power of the concentration camp float from ACT UP. ‎Creative Resistance is a special edition podcast mini-series in affiliation with the Center for Artistic Activism and is hosted by Research Fellow, Sarah J Halford. Interview no. We talked about all of that stuff. And it was literally a couple of hundred bucks. It was papered with manifestos and meeting notes and it was like literally every square inch was papered over with information, and I thought—I remembered, when young people needed to communicate with each other that's what we did. And the first one had a separatist screed that was very controversial called—that was called I Hate Straights, which created a big firestorm in ACT UP—because we were handing it out as we were marching with ACT UP. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So, we all went back to the Herstory Archives, and we said, "Do you have something a little more contemporary, or a little more sexual, or a little"—. That's interesting, though, that it happened. It's the core of the book because, you know, talk about counter-narratives: the entire question about the ways in which we think about the AIDS activist movement completely obliterates the question of the feminist health movement which almost every theoretical underpinning in AIDS activism is based on. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: That poster was done—and I also I agree with you that it's very—a very important work. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: But, when we—when we showed the poster on the floor of ACT UP, people hated it, and wanted to design it, and wanted to know, like, "Why was it blue on the bottom? AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, but I felt very strongly about that strategically. It was one of a series of businesses owned by an Italian apparel manufacturer, Benetton. So over the years, many people have come to tell me that they saw this when they were a kid, you know, a queer kid growing up in, you know, Chicago, and it just changed their world in a way. I'm thinking maybe this is a place to stop for now. I don't believe they do anymore, or if they do, they have competition. [Affirmative.] AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Julie and Lola were on the tee shirt, and the postcard, and they were the same—it was—I think it's the exact same image we used in this one—in Kissing Doesn't Kill. EPISODE 4 — CONTEXT In this episode, we heard from art activists: Ron Goldberg, Elliot Crown, Avram Finkelstein Fr… And he proceeds to tell me they in fact were both sailors. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: It's astonishing, that project. Yeah, so that would be the Justice Department. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: —so it feels immediate, but I've come to realize through all of my super-smart friends who are in performance, that much of the work that I have never considered performative actually is performative, and the activation of social spaces is what political posters are about. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So, I didn't—I didn't participate in either of those projects. And I started sort of poking holes in it and saying, "Well, they met at an International Workers Order summer camp. Avram Finkelstein is an artist, writer, gay rights activist, and ... activism and communication in the public sphere by publications including The New York Times and Interview. So there are institutional uses for being able to say, "Okay, here is the story, the dominant narrative of HIV/AIDS goes something like this: an embattled community assembled itself, fought power structures, and protease inhibitors were the result of that and the death toll went down radically." And there were members in the collective who were—not everyone in the collective was an artist, but there were members in the collective who were. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: What was needed—the reason why Silence = Death was needed was by—let's think in context. And Loring McAlpin wrote the final section, which was—I think it is called "Future Sex Acts." AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: It wasn't just a metaphoric gesture. But it looks very similar to how they design their front page. CYNTHIA CARR: Right, right. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: The Helix Queer Performance Network is Dan Fishback's project that he assembled, which is the Hemispheric Institute, La MaMa, and Brooklyn Arts Exchange, BAX. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And so, I contacted Frank Wagner, who was the curator. At the time, it didn't have—we didn't have a scheduled event for that day. CYNTHIA CARR: Mm-hmm, [Affirmative.] AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So I started to think about what kind of a context I would need in order to pass on some of these skills, and how would you replicate the—how would you create a setting in which you could enable that to happen? That's a quote from him—. All of my friends were junkies and musicians and artists and art students and, you know he seemed really scrubbed, but he was a graphic designer. And in that window was the neon sign of the Silence = Death poster. CYNTHIA CARR: Maybe by that point Annie Philbin was running—no, she wasn't ever in Creative Time. He is most famous for being one of the creators of the “Silence=Death” image that was used to promote gay rights in New York in the 80s. They sent case squad that was—it was people—cops from a case squad that's normally dispatched to investigate killings of police— to his apartment to investigate it. CYNTHIA CARR: And then a text about how he's in prison for—he had sex with—I guess unprotected sex—. I was the only one from the Silence = Death Collective that worked on the New Museum window. Now, you've done six of these, right? In every neighborhood, who's missing? AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So it was—it became such a firestorm that they in fact introduced a bill into the Illinois state legislature to make it illegal to depict same-sex couples kissing in public transportation in the state of Illinois. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: —were German and some of them were English. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So I think this suite of posters is really useful—. I don't know the exact point size. And the entire inside was filled with Vaseline, and they had wiped the Vaseline out. It's the, to use that terrible '50s phrase, it's the barefoot-and-pregnant thing with women. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Sure. Even ones that are homophobic, or don't want to participate in it, agree on that piece of the story. So we rejected the pink triangle, because it intoned victimhood and we felt like we didn't—we were trying to construct an empowering set of questions. Boycott. And the chair was factories with, you know, billows of smoke coming out of them and out of the clouds of smoke were raining pills. It seems important though—that a lot of what happened in that period of activism was just about getting out the facts. If you went in there as an out gay person you were—you could be in some danger. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And literally, in a day or two, he fell and had a massive hematoma— and went into a coma and was dead. He was the person who Oliver Johnston invited. CYNTHIA CARR: I see. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And it was—I literally had two and a half hours with them. Oral history interview with Avram Finkelstein, 2016 April 25-May 23 Description 23 sound files (7 hrs.) Yeah. So there's no eradication of HIV/AIDS without eradicating stigma, criminalization, transphobia, racism, and misogyny. We had to explain why it's a problem; maintaining undetectability is not an easy thing to do. This is not public space as a dialogue. No, maybe in the '70s. And the other was about—it was—we were having a conversation about the billboard of a boardroom full of people. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So it was a grey area. CYNTHIA CARR: Yes. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And the people that I mentioned the poster to said, "Well, you want to do what? CYNTHIA CARR: Mhm. I was so traumatized by that film that I became somewhat death-obsessed. It was very old school. He wrote the—what did they call them? This is an end for now and—, AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And if you—if you feel like you want to come back to something—, CYNTHIA CARR: —or maybe a test again just to make sure all of this is working? There was an international demonstration that somebody else made a poster for. But I think it's one of the—this is—you know there were—there are many types of political engagements. And I was—my affinity group, out of which came Queer Nation, and also the Women's Caucus, the Dyke Dinners, the CDC campaign—all of it came out of my affinity group. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So we were approached through Livet Reichard, which Annie Philbin was working there, and Patrick Moore was also doing some work for Livet Reichard, which was basically the gallery that was doing the art stuff for AMFAR. So they're drawings that are then photographed, that are then printed digitally on newsprint, that are then gessoed to canvas and then drawn on top of, and the collages were the same. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: —what was a queer national emergency. by Josh MacPhee. In every story, who's missing? If you know anything about law, it's not about having killed someone; it's about having put them at risk or having conspired to put them at risk. Law works in a very different way from the way science works and healthcare works and viruses work. CYNTHIA CARR: Mm-hmm. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Which meant women were dying six times faster than men and not being diagnosed. During that period, we produced postcards; somebody brought a button machine; we made buttons. I happened to be in San Francisco for the—when the project was first—it was the first city in which it was released. And they asked him if they could photograph them. And this was their subline—one of their lines. Yeah, it's gestural—. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: They were. As queer artists, what does it mean to be invited in?" But it—so, we debuted it. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And Holly Hughes, right? I think we're okay. [Affirmative.] And we immediately decided we wanted to do something that was neon colored, involved mechanical production that would be antithetical to that, and did this sticker that said, "This is not a safe space to be queer; there is no safe space," and set up a Tumblr page, and one of the members of the collective who came out of the spoken word collective Dark Matter, who are brilliant, wrote this piece that is the top part of the Tumblr page that talks about colonization. When the Yes Men did their amazing, "The Iraq War's Over," thing—. It was word of mouth. The two women from ACT UP that we photographed, we photographed some months afterwards for Kissing Doesn't Kill. We were one of the many component pieces to the creation of ACT UP. CYNTHIA CARR: Oh, I see. You had city editors and producers who, if you pitched an AIDS story, knew they had an audience for it. While waiting for fabrication tests for a recent commission, I started sketching my source material, a photo manipulated iPhone image of a transgendered friend—the first drawings I’d attempted since recovering from a stroke. He said, "Do you want to help?" CYNTHIA CARR: So it was a bill to get funding for more research? And somebody just raised their hand and said, "Public bathrooms.". And what was that in response to? CYNTHIA CARR: Oh, okay. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: But it was a very funny thing and I've been trying to—I've been trying to reconstruct the source of this—of my understanding of it. Yeah, so—and the other motifs in the Worker's Apartment, it's all based on propaganda textiles. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Super-important. I think that was—that began in late 1987. It really is how I think, how I see the world. And I didn't want any part of it, to be honest with you, because of my Situationist critique of museums. CYNTHIA CARR: Well, this is an end. A lot of things that we commonly use come out of Polari —which came out of the East End of London, which was also the Jewish ghetto. So he had a very expansive vision of the show and he asked me if I would do some blogging which was actually the genesis of—some of the chapters of the book are based on these blog posts in which I take this body of work that I had a hand in and talk about the issues that those posters were about and analyze them from a sociopolitical point of view, and also try to contemporize their meaning. And it was structured in the same way everything in ACT UP was. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And he had PCP again. CYNTHIA CARR: Uh-huh. But we became aware that CISPES, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, had done a fakeNew York Times just before we decided to do this—and were taken to court by the Times. And you know, there again, if you read it and you look through what we're asking, or suggesting, it's actually—it's very didactic, it's very flat-footed. Was that Gran Fury? So once this thing was on display, then what was the reaction? AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: We—by the time we moved in together, he became so sick that he moved out within months—. So we noticed all these things and when we finished the work we all left. March 20? [citation needed], and spoken at Harvard, Exit Art, Fordham, RISD, MassArt, The School of Visual Arts and CUNY. I'm not—it's not that I'm opposed to it, but its way more complicated than that, and maintaining undetectability is proving very difficult for a lot of people. It took a look at the less well-worn tropes about HIV/AIDS. And he literally—I spent the last night that he was alive with him in his room, and he didn't—he slipped in and out of consciousness, I kept calling the nurses in, and there was nothing to be done. Then they—. 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