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the netherlandsAccess for All

the netherlandsAccess for All

23 November, 2009

2004/2006 – Bangkok/The Netherlands


‘Access for All’ was the theme of the biennial International Aids Conference held in Bangkok in 2004. In conjunction with the conference, Han Nefkens and Hilde Teerlinck, then director of the CRAC Alsace in Altkirch (FR), asked each of ten artists from different countries to design a work based on this theme. The results were ten special works of art, each reflecting the artist’s personal view of the Aids problem. These high-quality pieces were produced by the Ecole Supérieure d’Art Le Quai in Mulhouse and Imprimerie Bieler in Huningue in a limited edition of fifty sets. During the conference the works were displayed in the famous Queen’s Gallery in Bangkok and were subsequently presented at the CRAC in Altkirch.
In the spring of 2006, the works toured four Dutch museums: Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, Museum Het Domein in Sittard, the Fries Museum in Leeuwarden and the Museum Jan Cunen in Oss. A series of talks with schoolchildren were organised in conjunction with the exhibitions in order to stimulate the discussion of the Aids problem.

ArtAids continues to sell the portfolios of prints (see below).


[Published in the 2006 book that accompanies each portfolio]

As part of the presentation of Access for All in the Centre Rhénan d’Art Contemporain (CRAC) in Altkirch, a small town in the Alsace, I was invited by the local high school to talk to the students about HIV in the world and HIV in my own body. As I stood before the class, I suddenly realised that on that very day, exactly eighteen years before, I had first been given the news that I was HIV positive. After the students had asked all their questions, I had something to ask them. I wanted to know what their reaction would be if they were to hear that they were infected with HIV. ‘I’d rather die right away,’ was one of the reactions, ‘because everybody would find out that I had done something bad.’ I thought ‘bad’ wasn’t quite the right word. ‘Stupid’ seemed better to me. It’s stupid to do something that can have such serious consequences when the consequences are so easy to prevent. Sometimes the consequences of such stupidity are way out of proportion to the act itself.
The drawings the students made after their visit to the exhibition hung on the classroom wall. One of the drawings featured the hands that Shirin Neshat had photographed for Access for All, with the word ‘solidarity’ written around them. All the students agreed you ought to show solidarity with people who have HIV, yet they were afraid of how others would react. My proposal that perhaps there should be more of a discussion about HIV and Aids was rejected as a not very interesting option. They thought a vending machine with condoms in the recreation room would be much more important  and collecting money for the children suffering from Aids in Thailand, such as my little friend Note, whom I had just told them about. They immediately came up with dozens of ideas for raising money.
So that’s how the virus and I celebrated our birthday: with the students of Altkirch in honour of little Note in Bangkok. The words of ‘Happy Birthday’ rang out in France and could be heard all the way to Thailand.


ArtAids thanks the artists who contributed to the Access for All portfolio:
Leandro Erlich
General Idea
Jef Geys
Shirin Neshat
Kamol Phaosavasdi
Shirana Shahbazi
Manit Sriwanichpoom
Rirkrit Tiravanija
Lawrence Weiner
Sue Williamson


The Access for All series is sold in a portfolio.

Contents of the portfolio:
- 10 prints (offset and silkscreen) measuring 64.5 x 50 cm
- a white sheet of paper measuring 64.5 x 50 cm, with the text ‘for all those who can no longer participate in this project’ printed in white
- a signed and numbered certificate
- a 10-page book intruducing each artist

The price of a portfolio is €1,950.00 (excl. 19% VAT).

For all inquiries, please contact ArtAids at

Illustrated: Acces for All on display in highshool Hooghuis West in Oss, The Netherlands.
Photograph: © Ingo Gotz