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BODIES OF RESISTANCE (article first published : 2000-06-29)

An exhibition curated by Barbara Hunt of the United States of America that reconsiders the AIDS pandemic opens at 16h00 on July 2 to run until July 20. Organised by Visual Aids (USA) collaborating with Real Art Ways, the exhibition forms part of Amasiko, the cultural programme of the XIII International AIDS Conference which takes place in Durban from July 9 to 14.

Bodies of Resistance is the first major contemporary art exhibition in ten years to reconsider the AIDS pandemic in the United States and to position it in relation to representations of the body and disease in different cultures. Some 13 new works have been produced specifically for the exhibition by artists based in South Africa, the United Kingdom and the USA, and originally from Canada, Cuba, Hong Kong, India, and Nigeria.

The exhibition takes as its starting point the influence of visual artists on representations of the body in popular culture and the undisputed impact of AIDS on their work. It addresses the ways in which perceptions of health, sexuality and desire have changed dramatically around the world as a result of the virus.

There are large-scale manipulated photographs from Aziz + Cucher; Chuck Nanney's brightly hued geometric shapes and patterns of installation; a tongue-in-cheek series of small paintings by Thomas Woodruff; Pujol's poetic photographic work; a new series of color diptychs by Sunil Gupta and a completely hand made but disturbingly shredded blue collar uniform in miniature by Charles LeDray. Ken Chu's evocative installation Remnants of Desire positions shards of Chinese crockery on oriental carpets and Kendell Geers’ Untitled (T.W.Virus) is an overpowering six foot cube wrapped in "danger" tape.

Release, by Frank Moore, furthers people's consideration of the human body during illness and All Systems Go (Mission Peony) gently pokes fun at "the final journey". Nancy Spero portrays Sheila-na-gig, the pagan celtic figure of destruction and regeneration alongside contemporary and historic images of women. In Barton Lidice Benes' AIDS Reliquarium, stained strands from the couch on which Rock Hudson watched pornography are placed next to an AIDS ribbon dipped in the ashes of a friend who died from AIDS.

Albert J. Winn explores his experience of being Jewish and living with AIDS through photographs of deserted Jewish summer camps. Steed Taylor created a 17 feet Celtic Road Tattoo on Arbor Street to celebrate the births of the first 40 babies born in the Hartford region after his 40th birthday (a milestone he was never certain he would make after HIV diagnosis).

Skowmon Hastanan critiques sexual tourism and the ways in which improved air travel to Asia has spawning a growth in prostitution, pedophilia and the traffic of young women from poor villages to brothels in the big cities. Seen from a distance Rina Banerjee's installation glows in a darkened space representing the spread of HIV/AIDS in India among the lower classes and Hindu rituals of spiritual and bodily cleansing. Oladélé Ajiboyé Bamgboyé presents a large-scale video projection and Internet piece which plays on the pun of "transmission".

Directly and indirectly, all of the works in Bodies of Resistance raise debate about issues relevant to the spread of HIV/AIDS locally, nationally and globally. Combined they also reconsider the role of artists in the ongoing fight to raise awareness of AIDS, and the shift in AIDS activism and education as we approach the third decade of the pandemic. The mood is less didactic, more complex, considered and reflective. Still angry at times, but, sadly, in for the long haul.

The exhibition will be accompanied by an 80-page color catalogue with essays by Lisa Forman (South Africa), Simon Watney (UK), Richard Meyer (USA), co-editors Barbara Hunt and Julia Bryan Wilson, as well as a foreword by Hoosen Coovadia, MD, head of the pediatrics and health department at the University of Natal, chair of the South African government's AIDS advisory group, and chair of the International AIDS Conference 2000.




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