"Talking About AIDS and HIV Is Serious, but I'm Such a Knuckle-Head Goofball"
What do you get when you put two sweater queens together with old Hollywood magazines, an ongoing crisis, creativity, a lot of heart and a camp sensibility: the artists prvtdncr and bodega vendetta.
Artists living on the West Coast, prvtdncr and bodega each have their own practice. They come together to collage their #feelings. This month, as part of the NOT OVER series, they will be exhibiting work made around HIV/AIDS for Printed Matter. Curated by Shannon, the exhibition entitled prvtdncr & bodega vendetta presents: House in Vermont runs June 28 to July 28, with a reception on the opening day from 6 to 8 p.m.
Over email prvtdncr and bodega vendetta took time to answer our ridiculously earnest questions. We look forward to meeting them at the SWEATER QUEENS COLLAGING GROUP on Saturday June 29 at Printed Matter from 5 to 7 p.m.
Visual AIDS: Your work seems both seriousness, and un-seriousness. Is this sensibility across most of your work or is it something specific to work around sexuality and HIV/AIDS?
prvtdncr: Real/fake deep/shallow happy/sad. This is how we approach everything. We want to highlight the ridiculous and at the same time tackle some of the darker issues with a smart ass response to take some of the sting out of them. As gay men we have lived through some rough times because of HIV and AIDS: losing friends way too early, dealing with complicated sex lives, wanting complete freedom sexually and trying to balance being smart about it and still having fun. This body of work is a direct reaction to this. It is autobiographical but also anonymous and sometimes fiction.
bodega vendetta: Seriously un-serious is more like it, I guess the nature of talking about AIDS and HIV is serious, but I'm such a knuckle-head goofball, it's difficult for me to be serious. I guess our stuff has tender moments, but I wouldn't say it's serious.
Visual AIDS: Tell me a bit about your process. How do you work together?
prvtdncr: This is an ongoing collaboration and correspondence between us and we both touch everything. We do work on them in the same studio space sometimes but also work separately and just text each other our progress. We send the drawings back and forth through the mail. We both draw and collage but we each have our own specialties we do to them: I do a lot of typing and sewing, he does a lot of scribbling and cigarette smoking.
bodega vendetta: Yeah, pd is really good at plaids and ombré prints, I specialize in wacky fonts, we fuck with each other's shit too. Lately prvtdncr has been introducing the vagina, I gag but can't spell so whatever.
Visual AIDS: So the title is slang for HIV. What does "House in Vermont" mean to you?
bodega vendetta: I was on the bus and my friend Danny said "girl, you know, she's got a house in Vermont" and I gagged, I thought it was the funniest shit I'd ever heard. Queens have been speaking in codes forever, one of my favorites is, "I'd like to show you my etchings sometime." That one goes way back.
prvtdncr: I speak like a valley girl so everything I say can sound like a secret message or code if I want it to. Sometimes you want privacy.
Visual AIDS: Do you find that there is something particular around collage that makes it a perfect form to create around AIDS?
prvtdncr: Collage is great in that you are borrowing someone else's work. It is a great shortcut to what we want to express or re-contextualize. We consider it scrapbooking. It is a form of documentation and an historical record. We are telling our stories, our friend's stories and doing so through most of the same crafty tools ladies in the Midwest use to document their lives and families. We employ collage, drawing, glitter, stickers, sewing, watercolor, appliqué and photocopying.
bodega vendetta: Collage is to art what sampling is to music. When pd and I started working together, we wanted our work to be super queer. A lot of our imagery comes directly from fag rags, club flyers and vintage porn, collage just made sense.
Visual AIDS: What do you think we should be doing in relation to HIV/AIDS?
prvtdncr: This has been a perfect forum for us. I lost three of my very best friends back when AIDS was AIDS and it has been a great honor to speak for them through you. Thank you very much.
bodega vendetta: We need to preach respect and responsibility. I got it because I was irresponsible, but I also got it cuz some queen had no respect for me. As a person living with HIV, it's my job, on a personal level to stop the spread of HIV. What Visual AIDS is doing is wonderful, keep doing what you're doing.