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SPAINArtists join forces at the Fundació Miró to combat the stigma of Aids

La vanguardia 29/06/2011

ArtAids presents the exhibition You Are Not Alone

Teresa Sesé, Barcelona

“There are thousands of pills on the market, but there’s not a single one that can open our minds. Only art has the almost magical power of making us think, letting us see the world from a different perspective and basically venturing a bit further”, says Hilde Teerlinck, director of FRAC Nord-Pas de Calais and curator of You Are Not Alone, an exhibition at the Fundació Miró that brings together fourteen artists from all over the world (including Lithuania, Morocco, South Africa, Cyprus, Vietnam, Chile and Thailand) to explore the issue of Aids at a time when, thirty years after the discovery of HIV, people living with the virus are still bearing its heaviest burden: social stigma.

You Are Not Alone is a bold declaration of intent by the project’s promoter, the ArtAids Foundation. Sponsored by Banc Sabadell, the exhibition is on at the Fundació Joan Miró before moving to the Contemporary Art Museum in Vigo. ArtAids was set up by Barcelona-based Dutch writer and collector Han Nefkens (Rotterdam, 1954) and its 2009 exhibition On the Outside Looking In received an award from the Catalan Association of Art Critics. Whereas the earlier exhibition was created mainly by local artists, the current one embraces a wide variety of different viewpoints by artists with very different backgrounds.

Many of the pieces were specially commissioned for the exhibition, including July, IV, MDCCLXXVI, by Berlin-based Vietnamese artist Danh Vo, who took the date of independence of the United States as the title for a life-size bronze copy of the Statue of Liberty (or more specifically its skin). The artist sees the statue as a symbol that has lost its meaning through overrepresentation – something he thinks can also be applied to the subject of Aids. At the Fundació Miró he has strewn fragments of the statue’s flame over the floor (the complete installation can be seen in Kassel in September).

Artistic duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset caught the public’s imagination at the 2009 Venice Biennale with their installation of a collector’s home with the collector floating upside down in a swimming pool. Here they expose the lucrative side to Aids with a large neon sign that reads AIDS is good business for some. Opposite is New Blood, a sexually charged reproduction of the Greek sculpture Barberini Faun undergoing a blood transfusion. Chilean artist Lorena Zilleruelo combines video and tango to talk about women infected with HIV by their husbands; Christodoulos Panayiotou depicts the moment of diagnosis by means of a folded theatre curtain that hides its painted sky; Moroccan artist Latifa Echakhch provides the most poetic touch in her installation on inflection; and Lithuanian artist Deimantas Narkevičius tells a story of homosexual love in the former Soviet Union, where homophobic laws were commonplace.

You Are Not Alone also features several remarkable pieces by Dutch artist Juul Hondius (can you spot who has HIV in his photographs?), Thai artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook (a group of orphaned children with the illness singing the national anthem) and South African artist David Goldblatt, who always includes a red lake in his deserted landscapes.

HIV-positive art activist Han Nefkens was awarded the Silver Carnation by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands last week. Several months ago he published Borrowed Time: Notes on a Recovered Life, in which he describes the aphasia he suffered when his brain was infected by HIV.

[Captions] An image from New Blood by artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset

[Highlighted passages] Elmgreen & Dragset restore the Barberini Faun’s sexual charge by giving it a blood transfusion Chilean artist Lorena Zilleruelo looks at the subject of women infected with HIV by their husbands