November 3, 2017 – December 30, 2017

In observation of HIV/AIDS Awareness Month in December, the International Museum of Surgical Science has organized two screenings in its art galleries that address the current history of the impact of HIV/AIDS, presented by the Video Data Bank. Presenting documentary accounts at the height of the AIDS Crisis, Tom Kalin’s 1989 video work They are lost to vision altogether and Gregg Bordowitz’ 2001 autobiographical work Habit, present unique accounts of living and loving with AIDS.

In conjunction with this exhibition, the Museum will also screen ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS (presented by Visual AIDS) in observation of the 2017 Day With(out) Art.

Screening details below:

They are lost to vision altogether

November 3, 2017 – November 30, 2017

1989 | 00:13:21 | United States | English | Color | Mono | 4:3 | Video

Made in 1989, Tom Kalin’s They are lost to vision altogether is an erotic counterstrike to the Helms Amendment, the U.S. government’s refusal to fund AIDS prevention information explicitly for gay men, lesbians, and IV drug users. Kalin paints a portrait of the national fear and hysteria that has usurped compassion and care for people with AIDS. With Kalin’s usual visual finesse, the tape eloquently conveys the need for a sane and human response to the crisis that still acknowledges passion and sexuality.

Tom Kalin’s (b. 1962) work focuses on the portrayal of gay sexuality both in the age of AIDS and historically, as in his acclaimed New Queer Cinema feature Swoon (1992). Informed by his work with two AIDS activist collectives, ACT UP and Gran Fury, Kalin’s video work is characterized by beautifully murky appropriated images and vibrant original portraits and performances. Kalin co-produced the feature films Go Fish (Rose Troché, 1994) and I Shot Andy Warhol (Mary Harron, 1996) and is on the film faculty at Columbia University.

Image: Video still from Tom Kalin’s They are lost to vision altogether, (1989). Image courtesy of the Video Data Bank.


December 2, 2017 – December 30, 2017

2001 | 00:52:23 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 4:3

Habit is an autobiographical documentary that follows the current history of the AIDS epidemic along dual trajectories: the efforts of South Africa’s leading AIDS activist group, the Treatment Action Campaign, struggling to gain access to AIDS drugs and the daily routine of the videomaker, a veteran AIDS activist in the U.S. who has been living with AIDS for more than ten years. The videomaker moves through his day, attending to mundane errands, eating, taking pills, having conversations with friends (some of whom have diseases such as AIDS and Breast Cancer, and others of whom are healthy), as recurring memories of a recent trip to South Africa interrupt the routine. Habit presents a rigorous working-through of ideas concerning privilege, ethics, responsibility, futility, solidarity, hope, and struggle.

Gregg Bordowitz (b. 1964) is a writer, AIDS activist, and film- and videomaker. His work, including Fast Trip, Long Drop (1993) and Habit (2001), documents his personal experiences of testing positive and living with HIV within the context of a personal and global crisis. His writings are collected in The AIDS Crisis is Ridiculous and Other Writings:1986-2003. He is currently Director of the Low Residency MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Image: Video still from Gregg Bordowitz’ Habit, (2001). Image courtesy of the Video Data Bank.


December 1, 2017

Visual AIDS has commissioned seven artists— Mykki Blanco, Cheryl Dunye with Ellen Spiro, Reina Gosset, Thomas Allen Harris, Kia Labeija, Tiona McClodden and Brontez Purnell–to create short videos ~7 minutes each in length about the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis. The video program, titled ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS, is the 28th iteration of Visual AIDS’ longstanding Day With(out) Art project. Curated by Erin Christovale and Vivian Crockett, ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS looks to prioritize Black narratives within the ongoing AIDS epidemic.

In spite of the impact of HIV/AIDS within Black communities, these stories and experiences are constantly excluded from larger artistic and historical narratives. In 2016 African Americans represented 44% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States. Given this context, it is increasingly urgent to feature a myriad of stories that consider and represent the lives of those housed within this statistic. ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS seeks to highlight the voices of those that are marginalized within broader Black communities nationwide, including queer and trans folks.

The commissioned projects range from intimate meditations of a young HIV positive protagonist, to a contemporary re-imagining of 90s-era “safer sex” media culture, to a musical journey through New York exploring historical traces of queer and trans life, to accounts from formerly incarcerated women living with HIV/AIDS in the Bay Area. Together, the videos provide a platform centering voices deeply impacted by the ongoing epidemic.

About Day Without Art:

In 1989 in response to the worsening AIDS crisis and coinciding with the World Health Organization’s second annual World AIDS Day on December 1, Visual AIDS organized the first Day Without Art. A Visual AIDS committee of art workers (curators, writers, and art professionals) sent out a call for “mourning and action in response to the AIDS crisis” that would celebrate the lives and achievements of lost colleagues and friends; encourage caring for all people with AIDS; educating diverse publics about HIV infection; and finding a cure. More than 800 arts organizations, museums and galleries throughout the U.S. participated by shrouding artworks and replacing them with information about HIV and safer sex, locking their doors or dimming their lights, and producing exhibitions, programs, readings, memorials, rituals, and performances. By the mid-90’s, Day Without Art attracted more than 8000 participants throughout the world.

In 1998, for its 10th anniversary, Day Without Art became Day With(out) Art. Visual AIDS added the parentheses to highlight the ongoing inclusion of art projects focused on the AIDS pandemic, and to encourage programming of artists living with HIV. Since 2010, Visual AIDS has worked with artists and filmmakers to internationally distribute videos to museums, art institutions, schools and AIDS organizations.

This exhibition is presented as part of the IMSS Contemporary Arts Program. IMSS supports a commitment to contemporary art and artists through exhibitions and programs that use the frame of contemporary artistic practice to examine new perspectives in surgical science and our relationship to the body.

This exhibition is made possible in part with support from Gilead Sciences.

This program partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency