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"When ACT UP Is Remembered, Other Places, People and Forms of AIDS Activism Are Disremembered"

Part Two of an Interview With Queer Archive Activist Alexandra Juhasz

February 17, 2013

Alexandra Juhasz

Alexandra Juhasz

In the first of this two part blog series, Alexandra Juhasz explained her thinking around "Queer Archive Activism." In this second post, Juhasz shares her thoughts on the real world application of "Queer Archive Activism."

Visual AIDS: What will be the benefits of Queer Archive Activism? (Specifically I am hoping you can comment on the benefits for those who made video and film art in early response to HIV/AIDS, and those who are recontexualizing it now. And of course, generally what are the benefits.)

The benefits to our nostalgic return are threefold:

  1. It fosters our own public and interactive remembering, "healing" (although this is not something I am seeking, personally: I don't really want to heal, I'd rather stay angry or at least contemplative), and interaction.
  2. It puts our history into the record, and reminds others that many people died and that at the same time, an organized movement worked together to respond to this catastrophe through a concerted set of radical efforts within culture, politics, medicine, and daily life. It presents our radical movement as an inspiration for contemporary possibility.
  3. It puts AIDS into the present and opens the possibility for my generation of AIDS activists to be in conversation with contemporary activists, artists and PWAs.

Visual AIDS: Related, what should we watch out for? What should we as artists, cultural workers, curators, public intellectuals and scholars, be looking for in this work?

My greatest hope would be that contemporary audiences see themselves in our Queer Archive Activism: not that we're old (but once were young like them), not that we are tired (but once had energy as they do), but that we are, and were, angry, scared, and empowered enough -- in our communal processes -- to demand and make a better culture for ourselves.

Visual AIDS: Within this evolving Queer Archive Activism, which I think is related to this cultural moment of AIDS Crisis Revisitation, what stories are you craving? Or hoping to be told? Or what moments or feelings do you want to see explored and shared?

It is interesting to see, at this time, when my generation's experience is being revisited (and I am often asked to perform this revisit, as you ask me to do here, as are a pretty predictable group of my colleagues and friends), how histories just like contemporary practices are the result of institutional sanction and authority: i.e, who gets asked and who does the asking.

In another piece that I wrote more recently, "Forgetting ACT UP" I penned that I hope that we will remember past ACT UP. Not because it wasn't important, and not because I don't care, but because AIDS activism had a much more diverse and complex history in the US, that tends to be overlooked when we return to this one place and institution.

"When ACT UP is remembered -- again and again and again -- other places, people and forms of AIDS activism are disremembered." When ACT UP is remembered as the pinnacle of postmodern activism, other forms and forums of activism that were taking place during that time -- practices that were linked, related, just modern, in dialogue or even opposition to ACT UP's "confrontational activism"1 -- are forgotten. To remember ACT UP, as I'd like to do here, is also to relish its surrounding and rich context of activist antagonisms, alternatives, associations, alienation and awe."


  1. Deborah Gould, Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP's Fight Against AIDS (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009).

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This article was provided by Visual AIDS.
See Also
"I Made My Mourning Productive, Collective and Interactive Through Video Production"
More HIV Activist Profiles and Personal Accounts

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