Look Here! Beautiful Images From 30 Years of Philadelphia AIDS Activism
November 28, 2017
And, of course, a fabulous black and red ball gown, its skirt bearing the iconic ACT UP-era slogan, "SILENCE = DEATH."
"We wanted to show things that combine text and images, and also to show underrepresented communities that are still struggling with the disease," says John Anderies, the archivist at the Way Center who curated the exhibit, for which about 50-60 items were culled from a collection of 5,000. Anderies says that the majority of the exhibit is from the early 1980s to the mid-late nineties, at which point both effective HIV treatment and the rise of the internet led to a drop-off in printed information about the epidemic.
Some of the earlier items in the exhibit were created in 1983 by a group named Philadelphia Community Health Alternatives, which had formed as an LGBT health group in 1979, a few years before the emergence of AIDS. The group created subway and trolley posters that read, "ONE NEW CASE PER WEEK" -- but then, as the epidemic grew, they would cross out "ONE" and replace it with "THREE," then "FIVE," and so on.
Most of the work originated in Philadelphia, Anderies says, "But if something was really iconic, like the "Silence = Death" slogan or the pink triangle, we included it." "The same for anything with lesbians or transgender people," he says, because those groups were rarely addressed in the context of HIV/AIDS until recent years.
Nearly as seismic an event was the exhibit's November 10 opening, which drew an extraordinary 370 people, including many local longtime survivors of HIV/AIDS and activists. "People would recognize a work or a model in a poster and say, 'Oh, I remember him,' or, 'I was at that protest when I was 17 years old.' It was incredibly meaningful for me," says Anderies. "People have a real hunger to think through both the past and the present when it comes to HIV/AIDS."
This article was provided by TheBody.
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