ACT UP NEW YORK: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987 - 1993

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© Courtesy of White Columns
ACT UP NEW YORK: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987 - 1993

320 W. 13th St.
New York, NY 10014
September 9th, 2010 - October 23rd, 2010
Opening: September 8th, 2010 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

(212) 924-4212
Tue-Sat 12-6


White Columns is proud to present ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993; a multi-faceted exhibition incorporating the ACT UP ORAL HISTORY PROJECT; and a new installation by fierce pussy.

Curated by Helen Molesworth and Claire Grace and organized by the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts and the Harvard Art Museums ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993 was originally presented in fall 2009 at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University. In the introduction to that presentation Molesworth and Grace outlined the exhibition’s remit:
“The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) was pivotal for AIDS activism in New York City in the late 1980s. Tracing the history of the movement, this exhibition examines the printed graphics and other visual media created by artist collectives that populated it, including Gran Fury, Silence = Death Project, Gang, DIVA TV, and fierce pussy. The exhibition also premieres the ACT UP Oral History Project, a suite of over 100 video interviews with surviving members of ACT UP New York that offer a portal to a decisive moment in the history of the gay-rights movement, twentieth-century visual art, our nation’s discussion of universal healthcare, and the continuing HIV/AIDS epidemic.” Molesworth and Grace address the climate and context for ACT UP whose: “… demonstrations in the late 1980s and early 1990s reflected the group’s outrage against a governing establishment that ignored HIV/AIDS as a national health crisis; that failed to secure funding for medical research, treatment, and education; that profited from inflated costs for therapeutic drugs; and that perpetuated homophobic misrepresentations of HIV and AIDS.” Molesworth and Grace portray the exhibition as an opportunity “… to reinvigorate a debate around the realities of HIV/AIDS today, and about the links between visual art, political activism, health, and human rights.” White Columns, like many other New York-based cultural organizations during this period was an active partner with ACT UP and other activist groups of that era, and we hope that the re-presentation of ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993 at White Columns will offer an occasion to consider the ongoing role alternative arts organizations continue to play in defining the cultural politics of their time.

The ACT UP Oral History Project has been developed and produced by Sarah Schulman and Jim Hubbard and presents more than 100 filmed interviews with surviving members of ACT UP New York from 2001 to the present. A recently expanded and updated version of the Oral History Project will be presented in the main gallery space at White Columns. The Oral History Project reveals intimate and idiosyncratic portraits of the diverse coalition of individuals associated with ACT UP, whilst simultaneously underscoring the collaborative and accumulative narrative behind the group’s work and legacy. More information about the Project, including full transcripts of the interviews, can be found at:

White Columns’ three other gallery spaces will feature displays of the now iconic visual media associated with ACT UP and AIDS activism from this period. Talking about this material – which includes posters, stickers, handbills, t-shirts, videos, etc. – Molesworth and Grace have said: “Working closely with ACT UP, artist collectives such as Gran Fury, Silence = Death Project, Gang, and fierce pussy formed to deploy guerilla marketing techniques to disseminate ACT UP’s messages to a mass audience, effectively exploiting the power of art to help put an end to the AIDS crisis.”

Following on from their four separate installations at Harvard University (including both the women and men’s restrooms at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum the women’s restrooms at the Carpenter Center and the lobby of Gund Hall at the Graduate School of Design), White Columns has commissioned fierce pussy to create a new installation in our lobby that will run in parallel with the historical and archival material in the exhibition.
For more information on ACT UP please visit their website at ……………………………………………………………………………………………………
These exhibitions will be accompanied by parallel screenings, discussions and readings relating to the ongoing legacy of ACT UP, AIDS, and the arts in New York. Further details to follow.
At White Columns a series of readings - curated by Sarah Schulman of the ACT UP Oral History Project - will take place on Monday evenings.

"Writers with HIV/AIDS" Reading Series
(All readings take place at White Columns. Admission is free and on a strictly first-come basis - we suggest early arrival to guarantee seats.)

Monday September 20 at 7pm:
Larry Kramer
Dudley Saunders

Monday September 27 at 7pm:
Emanuel Xavier reads Roy Gonzalves
Edmund White reads Robert Ferro
Dale Peck reads Sam D'Allesandro
Lynn Tillman reads Cookie Mueller
Alexis Pauline Gumbs reads Essex Hemphill

Monday October 4 at 7pm:
David Halperin reads Michel Foucault
Jaime Manrique reads Reinaldo Arenas
Jim Eigo reads John Preston
John Weir reads David Fineberg
Marie Howe reads Tory Dent
Terry Rowden reads Stephen Corbin
Penny Arcade reads Jack Smit

ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993 was organized by the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts and the Harvard Art Museums (co-curated by Helen Molesworth, former Houghton Curator of Contemporary Art, Harvard Art Museums; and Claire Grace, PhD candidate in Harvard University’s Department of History of Art and Architecture). ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987-1993 has been made possible by support from the Office of the Provost at Harvard University and the following endowment funds at the Harvard Art Museums: the Agnes Gund Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art; the Alexander S., Robert L., and Bruce A. Beal Exhibition Fund; the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Fund; and the Charlotte F. and Irving W. Rabb Exhibition Fund.

White Columns wishes to thank all of the contributing artists, writers, and lenders to the exhibition, as well as offering our sincere thanks to Helen Molesworth, Claire Grace, Sarah Schulman, Jim Hubbard, fierce pussy, Ira Sachs, Edward Lloyd, Francine Flynn, and Jennifer Aubin.