Where were queer women during the AIDS epidemic of New York in the '80s and '90s? A new audiovisual work from Manchester artist Rosanne Robertson remembers their role: Be Enraged, Become Explosive, which borrows its title from the wheat-pasted activism of the Fierce Pussy collective formed in '91, premieres today on World AIDS Day—in 19 cities around the globe.
Robertson's piece found a platform in Balaclava-Q, an international queer art collective whose second annual HIVideo project is unfolding right now across three continents. A total of 14 pieces created by 19 individual artists hailing from all over the globe—Colombia, Italy, Greece, Puerto Rico, Uganda, England, and more—are compiled like a package exhibition. They’re a “franchise” of sorts delivered by Founder and Director Stiofan O’Ceallaigh, to the host cities. As diverse as these cities are the venues the film is hosted in: A theater in Norwich, England; a queer-feminist-trans-lesbian bar in Paris; a performing arts center in Bloemfontein, South Africa; the Tom of Finland Foundation in LA; and in Athens, Greece, the Alexander Sauna.
“Each venue kind of takes on its own—what we're calling—add-ons,” O’Ceallaigh explains. “So say, for example, the gay sex sauna is going to have HIV testing and a talk afterwards.” Others, he adds, are accepting charitable donations for LGBTQIA and AIDS organizations.
Photo courtesy of HIVideo.
HIVideo is an output of Balaclava-Q, the queer art initiative that O’Ceallaigh, after spending nearly 15 years in the art sector, formed as both a platform for queer artists and a means of connecting those artists to encourage globe-spanning sharing and collaboration. With an awareness of the censorship imposed by governments and fundamentalist religious doctrines worldwide already on his mind, it was the devastation of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy last year that gave him a final, compelling push.
O’Ceallaigh knew he had to do something. “No censorship, no fees, no deadlines,” he stresses, adding that the selection of artists featured represents a spectrum of LGBTQIA identities.
The Manchester-based organizer runs on an abundance of zeal, making Balaclava-Q an almost overwhelmingly multifaceted endeavor. In one facet, it’s an ongoing online exhibition—the “no deadlines” element—that you can check out here, serves its name. Balaclava is typically a woolen garment “covering the whole head and neck except for parts of the face,” while the works submitted “explore the mechanism of obscuring the face.” The collective's mission statement points out the prevalence of the motif in aspects of gay culture, and the possibilities of safety and empowerment within that mechanism, while emphasizing that it's “not about shame.” The Q, of course, stands for Queer.
Another facet of the organization connects the artists, and the third, and final, stage is the HIVideo exhibition, where the fruit of those collaborations—and individual work as well—are presented on World AIDS Day. The theme of these particular works is Undetectable = Untransmissible, or U=U.
While O’Ceallaigh's own work, Diptych: Cumslut/Deepthroat, is intended for adult audiences only, there's one contribution to HIVideo that's outright illegal in its origin country: Impunity Uganda. Filmed in the wake of the country's now-scrapped anti-gay legislation (often referred to the “kill the gays bill”). It stands as the event's only documentary, and one for which the exposure afforded by the platform is incredibly vital.
Last year's unveiling counted six films in six cities. Today, the increased effort is possible through an extensive team of creative directors in Greece, South Africa, France, Italy, and Puerto Rico; plus a crew of volunteers, including HIVideo Co-Director John Hopper. Unsurprisingly, O’Ceallaigh is already plotting the 2018 edition, and other Balaclava-Q events—like the Banned Art Show slated for next summer—are relentlessly unfolding. As he explained of his work, “It truly comes from an activist core, this project. It's art as activism.”
Megalou Alexandrou 134, Gazi, Athens (start time: 2pm)
Bean Bag Cinema
5 Exchange Place, Belfast (Rainbow Project) (start time: 7pm)
(This venue will be showing HIVideo 2017 on Dec 8)
Orchard Street, Derry (Rainbow Project) (start time:1pm)
We'll be inviting everyone to our Foyle centre at midday, before heading to the Peace bridge at 12.15 to drop a rose and say a few words in memory of those we've lost to AIDS. Afterward at 13.00 we'll be screening the HIVideo global exhibition for World AIDS Day. We'll also be providing rapid HIV & syphilis testing during this time (1pm - 4pm)
Daphne du Maurier Seminar B, Penryn Campus, Treliever Road, Penryn (start time: 7pm)
Leeds Aire Studios
Unit 2c, Aire Place Mills, Kirkstall Rd, Leeds. Doors open: 6pm.
Cash bar, hot dogs (veggie), cakes and co. 7:30pm HIVideo screening. Short informal Q&A afterwards.
The Penthouse at Paradise Works
(2nd floor), East Philip Street, Salford, Manchester (start time: 7pm)
Duke Street Theatre
Duke Street Building, Norwich University of the Arts, Norwich (start time: 5pm)
176 Rue Saint-Martin, 75003 Paris (start time: 6pm)
(Conference Suite) 292 Via Portuense, 00149 Rome (start time: 4pm)
Performing Art Centre of the Free State
12 First Avenue, Westdene, Bloemfontein (start time: 6pm) Discussion afterwards.
Los Angeles (US): Tom of Finland Foundation
1421 Laveta Terrace, LA (Doors open: 7pm; start time: 7:30pm)
Puerto Rico Museum of Contemporary Art
Ave. Juan Ponce de León, esquina Ave. Roberto H. Todd,
Parada 18, San Juan
Start time: 6pm, 7pm talk by Dr, Santiago on Undetectable=Untransmittable, then the screening of HIVideo 2017. Afterwards there will be a discussion led by 3 film activists/artists about the HIVideo films.
All start times are for the HIVideo event specifically, and are local times. All additional events to the main HIVideo event will have differing start and end times, check the specific venue for that.