AIDS and Memory

What is called AIDS is, for consciousness and for thought, a necessarily impossible object. - William Haver, The Body of This Death

And if memory encrypts what is lost in death, it also preserves the lost other and our libidinal attachment to it, although the conditions for the survival of love seem to be confusion and anxiety. - Sarah Brophy, Witnessing AIDS

The history, memory, and lived experience of AIDS have changed over the course of the last three decades, so have the aesthetic practices and critical and cultural meanings tied to it. This issue of Drain invited theorists, artists, critics, writers, and commentators to think alongside us to consider the ways by which the representation of AIDS has evolved and continues to evolve in the realm of aesthetic and artistic practice, to think of what it means to remember and also to consider the persistence and insistence of memory and commemoration as an always already, perhaps, built-in facet to the attempted representation of AIDS.

What might be the ethical, socio-political and cultural stakes at hand in thinking memory, or commemoration, in the same instance as the aesthetic representation of AIDS? What might these artistic instances open up for with respect to dialogue, and thereby articulate, in their attempt to represent both the struggle to commemorate historical loss and the ever-present impulse to never forget these losses? How are artists, theorists and cultural producers taking these stakes into consideration in light of how the very lived experiences of AIDS change and evolve across racial, gendered, sexual, and classed divides and temporalities? Is it, in the final analysis, possible to think the ‘impossible’ as such when it comes to AIDS?


At 35: Writing the Viral Bildungsroman - Ricky Varghese

Feature Artist
À Vancouver - Vincent Chevalier

A Political Sense of Being at Home with HIV and Video - Alexandra Juhasz
‘Pray to be released from image’: Mourning, Desire and Self-Erasure in Derek Jarman’s Blue - Oliver Penny
‘Remembering Well’: Sexual Practice as a Practice of Remembering - Kate Bride (with a prologue by Amber Dean)
Sick Memory: On the Un-detectable in Archiving AIDS - Katrin Köppert and Todd Sekuler
“I don’t know what made this ‘private’ in the first place.”: Neil Greenberg’s Not-About-AIDS Dance and The Disco Project - Jaime Shearn Coan
Revisiting AIDS and its Metaphors - Ryan Conrad
The Extended Scene: Seeing Queer Futurity through the work of Colin Campbell - Francisco-Fernando Granados

Thought Experiments
Les instants de mes morts, After Blanchot - Ralph Carl Wushke
Epidemics and their Metaphors - Amy Kazymerchyk
AIDS 1969: HIV, History and Race - Theodore (Ted) Kerr
Can a Computer Remember AIDS? - Cait McKinney
Biomedical Nostalgia in Crisis - Stephanie Youngblood

2016, 1996 - Curated by John Paul Ricco (a Drain and Visual AIDS collaboration)

Pleasure, Texture and Digression: Douglas Crimp on Before Pictures - Kris Cohen and Abigail Susik
A Ghost in Our House: An Interview with Liz Gibson-DeGroote - Michèle Pearson Clarke
Getting ‘Down’ with the ‘Below’ – Visual AIDS 2016 and the Politics of ‘Archival Activism’: A Conversation with AJAMU - Christopher Smith
The Good, the Bad, and the Socially Practiced: A Conversation between Jordan Arseneault and Jon Henry

This issue was edited by Ricky Varghese

I would like to thank the contributors who made this issue possible. Their thoughtful provocations will play a significant role in the ongoing attempts at remembering HIV/AIDS. For inviting me to be lead editor for this issue, I am grateful to Celina Jeffery, Avantika Bawa and Greg Minissale.

I would also like to thank Natasha Chaykowski and Magnus Tiesenhausen for their brilliantly precise support as copy editors, Emily Igawa for her invaluable web support and the many collegial peer-reviewers who volunteered their time and critical acumen to reviewing the submissions that came through. I am, as well, appreciative of the efforts of both the past and current program managers of Visual AIDS, Ted Kerr and Alex Fialho respectively, for making the possibility of a collaboration a reality.

The launch event for the issue at Artscape Youngplace in Toronto, on Thursday September 7, 2016, would not have been possible if not for the generous assistance of Shani K. Parsons from Critical Distance Toronto and Leila Timmins and Noa Bronstein from Gallery 44.

Finally, without Umair Abdul Qadir and the numerous conversations we have shared in none of this might have come to fruition. This issue is dedicated to both him and Gautam.
Icon image - Vincent Chevalier, still from À Vancouver, 2016, Digital video.
AIDS and Memory - Vol. 13:2, 2016