‘Art speaks loudly in provoca­tive ways’

GA Voice - - Georgianews -

Dec. 1 is a day for many to re­flect: to re­mem­ber lives lost, to push for­ward ef­forts to find a cure.

But Ge­or­gia Equal­ity has slightly dif­fer­ent plans for this World AIDS Day. In­stead of com­mem­o­rat­ing death, it’s en­cour­ag­ing the pub­lic to cel­e­brate life. Through an in­ter­ac­tive art exhibit held at At­lanta’s Gallery 874, or­ga­niz­ers will put on dis­play the daily life of what it’s like to be a Ge­or­gian liv­ing with HIV.

“Peo­ple are no longer dy­ing in droves from AIDS, [but] a lot of peo­ple are still dy­ing of HIV/AIDS be­cause of the stigma,” said Emily Brown, field or­ga­nizer for Ge­or­gia Equal­ity. “The whole exhibit is called Liv­ing With. We re­ally want to high­light that peo­ple are liv­ing with HIV, and the stigma, shame and other is­sues that cause peo­ple to talk about HIV are why it’s still deadly.”

Through the exhibit — held in con­junc­tion with Ge­or­gia Equal­ity’s an­nual leg­isla­tive lun­cheon — Ge­or­gia law­mak­ers and the pub­lic will not only be able to hear pol­icy briefs, they’ll be able to ex­pe­ri­ence a few mo­ments in the life of those af­fected by the poli­cies.

“A lot of folks in the com­mu­nity of HIV ad­vo­cates, and peo­ple who are in com­mu­ni­ties highly im­pacted by HIV, have a lot of artists,” Brown said. “No one on any of­fi­cial chan­nel was talk­ing about HIV. Artists have been forced to take an ad­vo­cacy role. We re­al­ized there were peo­ple, even in our own cir­cle, who had things to say that weren’t eas­ily ar­tic­u­lated in a pol­icy brief or a quick kind of Pow­erPoint pre­sen­ta­tion.”

What they came up with was an art in­stal­la­tion, a sort of mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the AIDS Me­mo­rial Quilt.

“We didn’t ac­tu­ally in­tend to do an exhibit. It just be­came that. Now it’s enor­mous,” Brown said. “There’s so many in­stal­la­tions, so many pieces of art that are in­trigu­ing.”

Comic strip art, in­ter­ac­tive pieces fea­tured in exhibit

The backbone of the Liv­ing With exhibit is a se­ries of in­stal­la­tions which she called

November 25, 2016

“liv­ing spa­ces.”

“This is where an artist or group of artists work one-on-one with a per­son who is HIV-pos­i­tive to tell their life story through a four-di­men­sional space in time in the gallery,” Brown said.

A mu­ral­ist tells his sub­ject’s story through large comic strip art. Some are in­ter­ac­tive, in­clud­ing the piece that in­cludes op­por­tu­ni­ties for vis­i­tors to write mes­sages of sup­port — a play on the con­cept of “it takes a vil­lage” to sup­port a per­son liv­ing with HIV, Brown said.

“There’s one that has a tele­phone in the mid­dle of it and peo­ple pick up the tele­phone and hear the young per­son and the fam­ily’s re­ac­tion to his di­ag­no­sis with HIV,” Brown said.

One in­stal­la­tion is by Emily Get­say, a con­cep­tual artist who fol­lowed her sub­ject around for 24 hours and doc­u­mented his en­tire day. To­gether, they came up with a story that told not only what the day-to-day looked like, but also the strug­gles and the “sim­plic­ity of just liv­ing,” she said.

“The ti­tle of the in­stal­la­tion that I’m do­ing is called ‘Habit,’” Get­say said. “The idea be­hind this is the au­di­ence walks into the in­stal­la­tion, it con­sumes them, and they’re au­to­mat­i­cally forced to put them­selves in that frame, into the mind of some­one liv­ing with HIV.”

She said prior to meet­ing her sub­ject about a month ago, she didn’t know much about HIV/AIDS.

“Per­son­ally, it was a huge grow­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. They’ve ac­tu­ally be­come one of my re­ally close friends now — I’m get­ting kind of emo­tional be­cause this per­son is su­per awe­some,” Get­say said. “The main piece that I’m try­ing to con­vey with my in­stal­la­tion is that we’re all the same. Ev­ery per­son, we’re all the same species and we all have these strug­gles and these things we have to get over. Daily bat­tles and things we wake up in the morn­ing and we’re like ‘Gosh, don’t want to have to deal with that.’ I want it to be al­most like a con­nec­tion for the au­di­ence to that emo­tion in them­selves, and also to that emo­tion that peo­ple who live with HIV go through.”

When Brown put out the call for artists, the re­sponse was in­cred­i­ble. In ad­di­tion to the liv­ing spa­ces in­stal­la­tions, Liv­ing With fea­tures pieces con­trib­uted from mas­ters of all me­dia — a haute cou­ture jacket made from med­i­cal sup­plies, for ex­am­ple, and in

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