Breaking Into History: AIDS, the archive, and the fight against the canonization of an ongoing epidemic

Video, visual art, storytelling, printed material, literature, medical records, performance, gossip, online registries and other queer sources for sharing history have played a pivotal role in recent years in exploring the early days of the ongoing AIDS crisis in the us. But too little attention has been paid to how even with these queer sources similar and narrow versions of the past are repeatedly being told. This canonization stemming from the archive and networked ways of knowing are limiting not only how we understand the past, but how we act the present and imagine the future.
In this dynamic interactive presentation a filmmaker and artist, a public health scholar, and a media focused community historian will share their work, all of which can be read as a break away from the calcifying history of the early responses to AIDS and working towards a queer way of knowing, remembering and moving forward.
Using oral history, personal connections, and online innovation Tiona McClodden used her skills as an artist, and filmmaker to create an interactive website honoring the poet Essex Hemphill, those he inspired, and the communities he was a part of. Doing the work, she began by finding permission to tell stories untold and in the end has created a site that she hopes gives black queer and trans folks the permission they may need to be themselves online and IRL.
Born from a desire to connect with the AIDS activism that has being lauded in films like “How to Survive a Plague,” Julian de Mayo searched for and found communities of Latino AIDS activists whose footsteps he literally walked in, which he digitalization and used as a jumping off point to showcase the limits of the current AIDS crisis revisitation. Through websites and presentations and community dinners, he has created new communities, and reunited pre- existing networks.
As the progenitor of the phrase, “Your Nostalgia is Killing Me,” Ian Bradley Perrin has a visceral reaction to the limited and un-nuanced ways in which the history of ACT UP and many of its most prominent members goes unexplored. Trained as a public health historian, Bradley Perrin makes powerful use of the ACT UP Oral History Project and other resources to uncover and question what it means when ” drugs into bodies” is heralded as the major win of ACT UP. What are the implications of this on how we understand the past, the movement now, and those currently living with HIV and those made most at risk by the state.
Each will present using various media, after which they will engage in conversation with writer and organizer Theodore (Ted) Kerr where they will discuss the possibilities and limits of the archive as it related to access, canonization, and liberation.