Sick Memory: On the Un-detectable in Archiving Aids

Katrin Köppert and Todd Sekuler



In 2015, the self-acclaimed progressive men’s magazine the VANGARDIST published a special edition labeled #HIVHEROES as a reminder that being HIV-positive is still a stigma and a taboo. Printed with ink infused with the sterilized blood of three HIV-infected individuals, it became a minor media sensation. A video trailer that promotes the edition performs and almost dramatizes the potentiality of being at risk. By showing someone fearlessly opening the magazine’s protective envelope, it is also presented as a desirable, promising object. The audience is thus mobilized by an affective economy of being simultaneously afraid and appeased with the economically prolific logic of desire. The readers are imagined to be not at risk in the same way that the person’s blood as ink is rendered non-infectious. Or, more provocatively, the tactics of the VANGARDIST appear to invite a radical disregard for the logics of risk and infectiousness that contribute to the stigma of infection. Sero-positive but un-infectious, this issue of the VANGARDIST playfully embraces the infected blood so as to undermine its continued distinction and debasement.

While infected blood in the artworks of Hunter Reynolds, for example, took up an aesthetic of unruly virality and contagious dirt, in the #HIVHEROES edition of the VANGARDIST, it performed a protective aesthetic of perfectly-sculpted models, neat typography and highly designed, glossed materiality. The stylization of blood evokes a safety net without which the magazine would not have been marketable. Moreover, the editors chose to distribute the limited quantity of blood-infused publications with a re-sealable wrapper and, upon purchase online, one is asked to waive any rights to claim for damages in relation to the magazine. So feelings of being at risk have been kept alive. Indeed, a second and less expensive version of the edition was printed without infected blood for the sole reason that ‘people are still afraid of getting close to those living with HIV.’[1] Rather than commit to the infectious potential of a disregard for risk and infectiousness, the edition thus reveals itself as complicit with the aesthetics of health, fear and consumption.

With its promotion and stylization of the infected as un-infectious, the publication of #HIVHEROES serves as a point of departure to think about the extent to which public health engagements with HIV/AIDS—and in particular the current promotion of ‘un-detectability’—affect the question of memorializing an ongoing disease. Douglas Crimp once wrote: ‘AIDS does not exist apart from the practices that conceptualize it, represent it and respond to it.’[2] Building on Crimp, we ask here if western engagements with HIV/AIDS are increasingly infused with the logics of medical, aesthetic and archival ‘un-detectability,’ which is to say with the discourse of a less, but not non-infectious, illness. We would thus like to ask how AIDS archives might be infused with an impression (that reveals itself as an illusion) of safety, normalcy and containment.

The question of whether un-detectability informs practices of memory recalls a notion of the archives of the AIDS epidemic as ‘immediate, in the moment, on the street, and carr[ying] a particular kind of temporal meaning.’[3] As the field of public health prioritizes the virus’ un-detectability, has the temporality of the epidemic changed as well? Are we still witnessing the translation of immediacy and ephemerality as modes of AIDS activism and/or AIDS art into the act and acts of archiving? Do the discourses and practices of reducing contagiousness impact how and what we historicize? Are archival practices currently functioning in a mode that centers the potentiality and subjunctive futurity of being contagious/infected while feeling secure in the present? If so, what can the archives and exhibitions focused on AIDS tell us about the meaning and politics of such transformations? And if archives today do indeed help to secure the bodies integrity while dislocating insecurity into the future, what might operate as the queer politics of archiving AIDS? With the idea of ‘sick memory’ developed below, we aim to contribute to those strands of archival theory[4] that emphasize performativity and ephemerality, both of which we understand to also be implicated in the workings of un-detectability.

At the center of our attempt to engage epistemological approaches from public health, archival studies and queer politics is the recently staged exhibition AIDS. Based on a true story. Images +++ Media +++ Art at the Deutsche-Hygiene-Museum in Dresden (German Museum of Hygiene). Steeped in Germany´s politically inconsistent history (from the Weimar Republic to National Socialism to GDR’s socialism), the museum is well-known for its ideologically saturated communication of anatomical, medical and health-policy related artifacts of knowledge. To further document understandings of the body it hosts what is said to be the most comprehensive collection of international AIDS posters. Created as part of health campaigns and, to a lesser extent and less actively reflected by the exhibition’s curatorial team, activist actions, these posters are understood to ‘warn and admonish, inform and instruct, appeal and command.’[5] The posters constitute a unique media archive relating historically-distinct socio-political intentions and everyday practices of health-management. As the core of the exhibition is made up of a substantial selection of these posters, and as the curators and exhibit strive to engage systematically with them, the exhibition emerges as an archival exhibition that comes to shape and is thus inseparable from the archive itself.

To tell the story of HIV/AIDS from the posters’ perspective, the viewer is invited to chronologically follow their aesthetic and distributive shifts, the scandals surrounding their distribution and the (cross)roads of their circulations. With public health posters at its core, the exhibit lends itself well to a reading about the influence of public health work on the visualization of HIV/AIDS, but also to a reflection about its influence on the archiving, historicizing and exhibiting of such visualizations. While the exhibit itself focuses on the former, this paper offers an analysis of the exhibit to attempt a reading of the latter. What distinguishes this approach among the recent torrent of interest in the history and visual archive of the epidemic is that public health material has rarely been attributed to theories about the performative practices of memorializing and archiving. When at all, these connections have been made primarily in reference to (archival) exhibitions based on activism and art.[6][7]

Interestingly, the posters were accompanied by relics of AIDS activism and art, and by contemporary art works that were not always directly related to HIV/AIDS. These pieces did not only help to more explicitly question the boundaries of artistic media and mediated histories of disease and stigmatization, but—as will be shown below—they also opened the contained and containing histories of the posters towards the possibilities of an alternative future. Despite its minimalist, contained design with a balance of art and popular media, rare haunting moments thus appeared and suggested the ongoingness of lurking threat and risk. With the support of Derrida’s ‘Fever in the Archive,’ we locate these lurkings—and especially the wantings and failures that they reveal and enable—within the queer politics of what we call ‘sick memory.’ We thus seek here to consider the exhibition’s curation alongside the current patterns of less-infectiousness or un-detectability—such as are manifest in the almost-but-not-quite-safe rendering of the VANGARDIST. On theoretical and metaphorical levels, we aim in this paper to learn about the possibilities emerging from a threshold-like experience of the ‘not yet’—an experience that, translated into archival strategies, might allow to reconnect with the past while opening toward another future. Before expanding on this further we would like to consider the emersion of ‘un-detectability’ as a guiding logic of the contemporary moment within public health engagements with the epidemic.


On un-detectability within medical discourse and its media coverage

While the VANGUARDIST relied on a disembodied attribute of illness to blur the distinctions of infection, bio-technological developments have rendered a new status of human life in relation to the epidemic that breaks with the binary ‘positive’ and ‘negative.’ In a 2008 edition of the Bulletin of Swiss Medicine,[8] members of the Swiss Federal Commission for HIV/AIDS concluded that HIV-infected persons on anti-retroviral therapy (ARV) and with no other sexually transmitted infections cannot transmit HIV via sexual contact if their viral loads have been un-detectable for at least six months. While the efficacy of ARVs in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission had already been well documented prior to this publication,[9] the statement itself was based primarily on a limited number of studies giving reason to assume that an undetectable viral load (fewer than 40 copies of HIV per ml of blood) made possible by ARV might also prevent the transmission of the virus during sexual contact.

Given its radical departure from the widespread imaginings of HIV-infection as a death sentence—in terms of social if not also biological death—it is no surprise that this statement received much attention by popular media outlets, health-governing bodies, scientific communities and patient-advocacy organizations. In general, media responses took the form of cautious but no less hyperbolizing support. An article from 4 February 2008 in Time magazine,[10] for example, described the statement as ‘bold and provocative.’ In the article, the perceived boldness of the statement was contrasted with a vague but ominous concern about ‘how this information is going to be used.’ Similarly, what made representatives of public health institutes ‘a little concerned is making the statement that there is essentially no risk of getting infected if you are having sex with a partner who is HIV-positive and on ARVs with virus below detectable levels. There is no such thing as zero risk.’ Following this same line of thought, the author of the article then concludes: ‘the important thing to remember, however, is that being less infectious is not the same as being non-infectious.’ What makes the statement bold and provocative is hence the proposition that persons living with HIV might evade the logic of contagion that has likely governed their lives at least since they learned of their infection.

Several months following this publication, a group of persons living with HIV or AIDS presented the ‘Mexico Manifesto’[11] in which they positioned themselves strongly in support of the conclusions drawn in the statement. Picking up the language of public health, the group asserted that the statement was adequately scientific and would enhance the ‘quality of life’ of their members and favor the social integration of people with HIV. Moreover, the document also included a list of six expectations of actors in the field of HIV and AIDS; number two on the list read: ‘the hitherto existing public image of people with HIV is adapted to current life-realities. That means first and foremost: The images of dangerous and irresponsible individuals or of wretched people devoid of personal responsibility are disclaimed.’ Hence, while media outlets acted out anxieties about a possible loss of contagiousness among HIV-infected persons, certain patient-advocacy groups embraced the prospect opened up by the statement of social and political integration.

As part of the programmatic agenda now widely referred to as ‘test and treat’ or, more specifically, ‘treatment as prevention,’ promoting and enabling an un-detectable viral load among infected persons has become a cornerstone of strategies taken up by health-governing institutions—together with various patient-advocacy groups—against the continued spread of the epidemic. Indeed, the three central pillars of a recent UNAIDS strategy to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030[12] revolve around a goal to increase the percentage of persons living with HIV or AIDS who are aware of their sero-status and on anti-retroviral therapy so as to render their viral load un-detectable and hence their virus non-infectious. Encapsulating and yet eluding both a negative and positive sero-status, Nathan Lee thus writes of ‘undetectability’ as a new biopolitical concept ‘signifying a presence that is absent, predicated on suppression and surveillance, the undetectable occupies an indeterminate space and produces new modes of connectivity, at once increasing the capacity of a body and subjecting it to a relentless regime of control.’[13]

Here we would like to ask how this biopolitical logic of un-detectability may have come to shape not just the current structures of engaging with or rendering ‘responsible’ infected individuals, but also the cultural memory of the epidemic, and hence the very matter of the epidemic itself. To approach an answer to this question, we would like to turn to the aforementioned exhibition AIDS. Based on a true story. Images +++ Media +++ Art. We will present a broad overview of the exhibition, but given space restrictions and the focus of our paper on the traces of un-detectability, we only address particular aspects of the structure and intent of this important and thought-provoking exhibit. We then search for the ambivalent workings of un-detectability in its staging and conceptualization.


Memorializing in the eyes of un-detectability

In 1998, the Deutsche-Hygiene-Museum acquired 5000 HIV/AIDS posters from the collector Thomas Hill, which, together with the museum’s own gatherings of similar German posters, became the foundation for an international AIDS poster collection. This archive—which now amounts to 10,000 posters from 147 countries—constitutes the fundament of the exhibit. As part of AIDS. Based on a true story. Images +++ Media +++ Art, the collection was put on display across five rooms that were divided by theme and ordered chronologically: ‘The Illness of Others,’ ‘Breaking Silence,’ ‘AIDS As A Media Event,’ ‘The Virus’ and ‘Living Together.’ A sixth room continued and condensed this practice of cataloguing and categorizing the posters, and thus offers an overview of additional topics addressed within the archive. Grouped together under key words such as ‘war,’ ‘medicine,’ ‘syringe,’ ‘sexuality’ and ‘contact,’ posters that exemplify each topic were arranged and displayed as pieces of a tag cloud. Evidencing their consonance, co-constition and inseparability, the exhibit thus took on and took over the gathering, sorting and indexing system of the archive. A final room presented a looped screening of contemporary prevention videos.[14] Within each section, the intersections of images, media and art allowed visitors to rethink the changing visual strategies for construing the detectability of the virus and its transmitters. Hence, the representation of institutionally-bound posters—in the exhibit as archive—does not only matter in determining who will live and who will die,[15] but also where the blame lies in terms that re-construct hierarchically organized categories of gender, sexuality, abilities, class and race.

Given the enduring stigma and oppression faced as an HIV positive person in nearly any context around the world, making known one’s HIV infection may be understood to constitute a sort of ‘coming out’ of its own. While the closet, according to Eve Sedgwick, was ‘the defining structure for gay oppression’[16] but also a source of ‘overarching consistency to gay culture and identity’[17] throughout the twentieth century, ‘coming out’ within the context of HIV/Aids could be understood as constraining instead of liberalizing. Posters played their part in making the virus and the persons, forced into the logic of testing and disclosure, detectable.

In its laudable striving towards analysis and communication, we came to recognize that the exhibition itself in some ways employed an aesthetic/didactic that one might describe as un-detectability, or inconspicuousness, to render the discursive workings of the poster’s intended detectability. The posters, which were carefully preserved and framed, hung in orderly straight lines to display a collection that appears to consist predominantly of white, healthy-looking bodybuilder masculinities, smiling faces and glossed hoping victims in the manner of traditional development aid advertisements. Safer sex brochures and the once-dynamic ‘infected’ fashion collection of the artist Silvio Vujicic were also immobilized and enclosed in boxes, which further communicated an aesthetic of compliance, containment and security. Similarly, otherwise unbound temporalities, shaped by the immediacy of virality, were disciplined, periodized and thematically classified.

From this perspective, one might say that the exhibition, at times, took up the inner logic of the posters themselves: constructing the faces of the virus by exposing them in anesthetic terms highlights the ‘bliss’ of being less endangered or less dangerous. Such a logic reflects an affective economy of being non-offensively informed[18] and/or transcendentally moved instead of disturbingly affected. Accordingly, the exhibition, like the posters, became a consumable, non-offending object serving the confirmation of one’s own opinions. Using three examples, we would next like to consider the impact of these kinds of relations for archiving (between artefacts and beholder) and curating (between exhibitions and visitors) in a museum.

Working to make the best of the enormous amount of information embedded in this rich archive, the curators took on the goal to strengthen understandings of the formative history and circulatory context of the posters by conducting massive research about the commissioning organizations, photographers, graphic designers and models. While exhibiting in museums always entails an imperfect balance between providing adequate information, so that viewers from a range of experiences are able to connect with the works on display, and allowing viewers to engage with the works on their own terms, the explanatory didactics of the exhibit, while informative, at times risked impeding the possibility for visitors to build connections between the pieces of the exhibit or with the broader and especially contradictory histories of HIV/AIDS on their own terms or with the help of their fictions and generated contents. Jacques Derrida locates this strategy of exposing the archive, and thereby constructing the laws according to which the archive is alleged to function while also effacing this act of construction from view, as part of the structures of patriarchy.[19] In this way, the visitors were seduced to adopt a passive position of receiving information—of believing AIDS to be indeed ‘based on a true story.’ Reflective of the nineteenth-century notion of ‘just’ rescuing sources, the immobilization of the visitor re-centers the museum in its function as a neutral provider of information.[20] Concepts of user-generated context, which gained recognition within New Museology, were thus left under-acknowledged and under-valued.

Texts from the catalogue provide readers and visitors with helpful insight into the origins and construction of the archive and exhibit. Moreover, during our visit we learned from the curator, Vladimir Čajkovac, of impressive plans to make an online database of the archive open to the public. While these tools open up the possibility for future and ongoing exchange with viewers, the selection and processing of material used for the exhibit appears to have been primarily the task of the curator and his team, which, when taking in the exhibit, did not invoke the feeling of ‘shared ownership’ or ‘dynamic collection’ as was discussed by Léontine Meijer-van Mensch and Annemarie de Wildt[21] with regards to the musealization of the AIDS Memorial Quilts. Especially given that the foundations for the archive came from a collector rather than from those involved in HIV/AIDS care and activism, it stood out to us that one could not track the substantive involvement of groups—and not just individuals—responsible for or affected by the posters in their collection, documentation and restoration. Approaches of participatory exhibitions or archives are thus somehow missed.[22] One might say that this makes the exhibition comprehensible as an object to consume and not as a subject to interact with or to perceive as a part of one’s own.

With this in mind, one could thirdly claim the exhibition to be the object of the museum serving a mission to non-disturbingly, but representatively, present ‘cultural, social and scientific revolutions taking place in our society.’[23] Thus AIDS becomes a spectacle for the consumption of difference,[24] the newest fodder to keep the economy of cultural innovation ticking.[25] From this light, un-detectability is more than an inability to detect viral load or a loss of viral infectiousness; instead it also risks the closely related potential to challenge anesthetization as a precondition for the normalization of stigmatizing violence.

In what ways—if we loop back to the concept of un-detectability—is its use ‘bold and provocative’? How, in the discourse and practice of its deployment in museums, does it risk reconfiguring the potentials of ambiguity embodied by those who are perceived as a risk to themselves or society?

Trans, queer and post-colonial scholars, together with scholars of critical race theory, fat studies, critical disability studies or crip theory, have mapped out the ambiguities of investments in health and containment, often from the margins of the fight against HIV and AIDS.[26] While persons understood to be sick or pathological may experience pain, distress or fatigue—whether it be due to their classification and treatment as sick or also related to other forms of dis-ease or infection—pathologization is at times deployed to constitute and stigmatize deviations from an alleged norm, or to further reinforce existing but precarious socio-political hierarchies and unstable structures of inclusion and exclusion. These dynamics intersect and are often compounded based on one’s perceived gender, sexuality, abilities, class and race. However, in as much as HIV infection exposes the possibility of the collapse of the immune system, and thus also destabilizes boundaries between the normal and the abnormal, Julia Epstein observes a disruptive potential here: ‘the ambiguous social position of the person with HIV infection – at the same time pitiable and marginalized as disposable – triggers threats to the borders of individuals who look on this ambiguity with a normalizing gaze.’[27]

Can ambiguity still be assumed in discussing the social position of a person with an infection without the ability to infect and thus to transform? Or about the position of an archive/museum operating in the logic of sickness with no risk? We would now like to think of these questions with the idea of archival feeling as archive fever and introduce the concept of ‘sick memory.’


The un-detectable as archival feeling/archive fever

Because the archive has been construed as a brittle place of sober orderliness with an infinite loop of documents, files and greyish boxes, feelings, emotions and affects have long been under-appreciated in related theories. Any former valuation of feelings in the archive, such as were part of methods of empathy,[28] have been neutralized since the nineteenth century due to the pressing quest for objectivity.[29] Derrida, who wrote about the archive, less from a practical perspective, but using instead a philosophical and poststructural discourse,[30] has written about archive fever—a passion for the all but never-ending search for the archive, its meaning and as an ultimate beginning and commandment. In its ‘failure’ to be fulfilled, this passion is not just the condition of the archive; it’s also a potential for the continuity of the archive in the future.

Just as one is left unsatisfied by a timeline of HIV/AIDS that accompanies the exhibit, which uses broad strokes to build a linear narrative and attempts yet another, albeit politically and historically fascinating, ‘origin’ story for the epidemic, one is confronted with an impossible feeling of finality in the hunt for the origin of HIV/AIDS. Given our question about the potential of un-detectability’s ambiguities, this impossibility might drive what we would like to call the politics of ‘sick memory,’ or the politics of a memory that is enabled by failure and profoundly affected by the hopelessness of reaching an ‘end’ or achieving a ‘whole’ HIV/AIDS archive and history. In the realm of sick memory, ‘fever’—or burning desire and the threat of desire burning—might be translated into the workings of un-detectability. While fever in the early crisis functioned as a metaphor for the queer potentiality of a burning desire that has been materially and discursively endangered, un-detectability now is the metaphor for what fever once represented: the logic of failing and of fooling memory in its concept of containing and preserving. Thus we talk of ‘sick memory,’ a memory that lacks wholeness, sovereignty and containment.

With the turn to ghosts within psychoanalysis, Derrida suggests that repressions and secrets helped to reformulate the structure of the archive as spooky, emphasizing the truth of the phantoms and of those who hallucinate them. In ‘madness’ lies the truth of an archive that never comes to an end. With regards to HIV/AIDS, one might say that the truth of the epidemic is nesting in the imponderability of sickness, the unpredictability of pain and the uncanniness of death. But how can we claim these future memory-infusing phantoms when we are increasingly confronted with discourses and practices that render HIV not risky, or archival and curatorial strategies of memories not contagious in terms of being harmless to convictions and self-evidences?

We thus ask what—if not pain, sickness and death—could be the futurity imposing archive fever in the ongoing, unfinished memory of HIV/AIDS. Further probing of the exhibition prompted us to rethink our initial impressions.

From the start of the epidemic, activists sought to reshape the singular or primary cultural construction of AIDS as a sickness of weakness, fragility and death. It is thus both telling and yet also infectious that the single posters in which corporal signs of the advanced stages of the disease are visible as lesions or scars—in a 1995 poster from Netherlands and a 1992 poster from Germany—are grouped together in the final cluster of the exhibition entitled ‘Living Together,’ which was marked chronologically with the introduction of highly active ARV in 1996. These agential hauntings from within the poster display, pushing back against the temporal and textual logics, format and structure of their containment, signal the potential for fever in the archive.

Moreover, the posters, from our point of view, were activated by certain objects, which provoked fictions that enabled the an-archiving deconstruction as condition of the museum in process. Especially objects that were centered around the question of stories with no guarantee served as the ghosts and specters of an archive coming to no end. The painting Conspiracy Theory (2010) by Allen Grubesic, for example, refers among other things to the paranoia and ‘hermeneutics of sus­picion’[31] during the AIDS crisis. The contagiousness of rumors and conspiracies, brought into the exhibition, makes it possible for visuals and emotions to go beyond the restricted and specific set of images forming the visual archive of AIDS posters.

One might similarly understand the poster YOUR NOSTALGIA IS KILLING ME (2014) from the AIDS activists Ian Bradley-Perrin and Vincent Chevalier, which put on display the commercial(ized) ‘souvenir pictures’ that have accompanied the western visual history of AIDS from the past 30 years. Well-known images of Gran Fury, General Idea, Keith Haring and Benetton are headlined by the slogan ‘Your nostalgia is killing me,’ thus asking: to whom does the hi-story of AIDS belong, and who has been left out of that hi-story?  The piece also serves as a provocative reflection about the function of posters as fan objects turning the ongoing disease into a desirable object and an object for the nostalgia of those who are no longer directly or life-threateningly affected. It is not a story about AIDS at stake in the poster, but the very act of story-telling itself, which, via an online shitstorm following its diffusion, has rendered so uncomfortably and urgently detectable the assumptions and power at stake in existing stories, presumptions and perceptions of the epidemic, its past and its future.[32]

A final example is the video The Horizon (2013) by Maja Cule. From a bird´s eye view we can see a woman clinging to a skyscraper and fighting for her life. An ever-looming, catastrophic future, pulling at the woman like the ubiquitous force of gravity, hovers and undermines the building’s promise of safety and comfort. Sharing the same angle we are soaked into the feeling of fear and the horror of expecting the worst. Safe stories that we have discussed before are contrasted by the missing safety net in the video—which was looped and thus converted into the enactment of a performative-repeated vulnerability.



As biotechnological advances that favor the un-detectable have provoked a transition in the temporality of HIV infection for some—moving from the queer time of urgency, loss and destruction to one of chronicity, futurity and longevity—the infectiousness of un-detectability itself risks bleeding into our cultural memory of the epidemic, reshaping the claims, corruptions and confrontations of its past as much as their potential for the present and the future. Resistant to the force of viral suppression, tactics of vulnerability, paranoia, provocation and fear expose themselves as affecting modes that open up the closeting effects of un-detectability, but without harking back to the instrumentalization of affects for forced coming outs and detectable poster faces of AIDS. Instead they evoke the uncanniness of feeling safe or being un-detectable and therefore of supposedly existing with integrity.


[2] Crimp, Douglas.  ‘AIDS Cultural Analysis, Cultural Activism, October, 43, Winter 1987, 3.

[3] Sturken, Marita. AIDS Activist Legacies and the Gran Fury of the Past/Present, 2014,

[4] Muñoz, José Esteban. Ephemera as Evidence: Introductory Notes to Queer Acts’, Women & Performance, 8:2, 1996, 5 – 16/ Taylor, Diana. The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003)/ Halberstam, Jack. In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York, London: New York University Press, 2005).

[5] Roeßiger, Susanne. Collecting AIDS Posters’, in: Čajkovac, Vladimir (ed.). AIDS. Based on a true story (Dresden: Deutsches Hygiene Museum, 2015), 8.

[6] Just to mention a few exhibitions: ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987-1993 (Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University/White Columns Gallery, NY, 2009-10), Gran Fury Read my Lips (Steinhart School Department of Art and Art Professions, New York University, 2012), Why We Fight: Remembering AIDS Activism (New York Public Library, 2013-14), LOVE AIDS RIOT SEX I+II (nGbK, Berlin 2013-14), Art AIDS America (Tacoma Art Museum, 2015).

[7] Burk, Tara. Form the Streets to the Gallery: Exhibiting the Visual Ephemera of AIDS Cultural Activism’, Journal of Curational Studies, 2:1, 2013, 32 – 53.

[8] Vernazza, Pietro et al. ‘Les personnes séropositives ne souffrant d’aucune autre MST et suivant un traitement antirétroviral efficace ne transmettent pas le VIH par voie sexuelle’, Bulletin des médecins suisses, 89:5, 2008: 165 – 169.

[9] Dao, Halima et al. ‘International recommendations on antiretroviral drugs for treatment of HIV-infected women and prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in resource-limited settings: 2006 update’, American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 197:3, 2007, 42 – 55.

[10] Park, Alice. Are Some HIV Patients Non-Infectious?’, 2008,,8599,1709841,00.html.

[11] The MEXICO MANIFESTO. A Call to Action by People with HIV and AIDS presented at the XVII International AIDS Conference 2008, Mexico City. Organisation of people living with HIV and AIDS in Switzerland’, 2008,

[12] UNAIDS. 90-90-90 An ambitious treatment target to help end the AIDS epidemic. Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)’, 2014,

[13] Lee, Nathan. With the Aim of Making it Snap’, in Lee, Nathan and Rachel Cook (eds.). Undetectable (New York: Visual AIDS, 2012), 10.

[14] For a more thorough elaboration of the exhibition’s selected themes, see the catalogue that accompanies the exhibit. Čajkovac, Vladimir (ed.). AIDS. Based on a true story (Dresden: Deutsches Hygiene Museum, 2015).

[15] Sturken, 2014.

[16] Sedgwick, Eve. Epistemology of the Closet (Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 71.

[17] Sedgwick, 1990, 68.

[18] Kerr, Ted. Exploring AIDS as Media Event’, 2016,

[19] Derrida, Jacques. Archive Fever. A Freudian Impression (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 3.

[20] Walz, Markus. Museum 2.0, Museum 3.0, Europäische Ethnologie 0.0?.Das Sammeln gegenwärtiger Alltagskultur als Aufgabe angewandter Wissenschaft’, in Elpers, Sophie and Anna Palm (eds.). Die Musealisierung der Gegenwart. Von Grenzen und Chancen des Sammelns in Kulturhistorischen Museen (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2014), 31 – 50.

[21] Meijer-van Mensch‘s.ela and Martin and ygiene-.  : ch as er opened up the conatined histories n container es from Deconstructionon Wissenschaft u, Léontine and Annemarie de Wildt. AIDS Memorial Quilts. From mourning and activism to heritage objects’, in Elpers, Sophie and Anna Palm (eds.). Die Musealisierung der Gegenwart. Von Grenzen und Chancen des Sammelns in Kulturhistorischen Museen (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2014).

[22] Gesser, Susanne, Martin Handschin, Angela Jannelli and Sybille Lichtensteiger (eds.) Das partizipative Museum. Zwischen Teilhabe und User Generated Content (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2012); Reitstätter, Luise: Die Ausstellung verhandeln. Von Interaktionen im musealen Raum (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2015).


[24] Nghi Ha, Kien. Hype um Hybridität. Kultureller Differenzkonsum und postmoderne Verwertungstechniken im Spätkapitalismus (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2005).

[25] Groys, Boris. Der submediale Raum des Archivs’, in Ebeling, Knut and Stephan Günzel (eds.). Archivologie. Theorien des Archivs in Philosophie, Medien und Künsten (Berlin: Kadmos, 2009), 144.

[26] For just a few examples: Bersani, Leo. ‘Is the Rectum a Grave?’, October, 43:AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism, Winter, 1987, 197 – 222, Chen, Mel. Animacies. Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012), Berlant, Lauren. ‘Slow Death (Sovereignty, Obesity, Lateral Agency)‘, Critical Inquiry, 33, 754 – 780.

[27] Epstein, Julia. ‘AIDS, Stigma, and Narratives of Containment’, American Imago,49:3, 1992, 296.

[28] Those methods consisted of writing exercises that, untill the 1870s, historians had to carry out in order to build emotional bridges to the past. Saxer, Daniela. ‘Geschichte im Gefühl: Gefühlsarbeit und wissenschaftlicher Geltungsanspruch in der historischen Forschung des späten 19. Jahrhunderts’, in Jensen, Uffa and Daniel Morat (eds.). Rationalisierungen des Gefühls: Zum Verhältnis von Wissenschaft und Emotionen 1880-1930 (München: Fink, Wilhelm, 2008), 95.

[29] Plamper, Jan. Geschichte und Gefühl. Grundlagen der Emotionsgeschichte (München: Siedler, 2012), 342.

[30] Brothman, Brien. ‘Declining Derrida: Integrity, Tensegrity, and the Preservation of Archives from Deconstruction’, Archivaria, 48, 1999, 64 – 88.

[31] Ricoeur, Paul in Sedgwick, Eve. ,Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading’, in Sedgwick, Eve. Touching Feeling. Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 124.

[32] Kerr, Ted. ‘Ian Bradley-Perrin at the NYPL: “The failures of the past are still with us”’, 2014,

Katrin Köppert holds an MA in Gender Studies and German Literature from Humboldt-University in Berlin. Her Ph.D deals with queer pain in vernacular photography postwar and pre-stonewall. She was a doctoral scholarship holder from the DFG-research program “Gender as a Category of Knowledge”. Köppert currently works at the Institute for Media and Media Theory at the University of Arts and Industrial Design Linz/Austria.

Todd Sekuler holds a BA in French Literature and Biology with a Certificate in European Studies from the University of Wisconsin, and an MPH from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City. Sekuler currently works at Humboldt University’s Institute for European Ethnology where he is completing his Ph.D. In September of 2016 he will begin a 3-year research project on European HIV/AIDS policies and activism as part of the Humanities in the European Research Area Joint Research Programme ‘Uses of the Past.’