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182 Art In America November 2011




“You Are Not Alone” is a group exhibition organized by ArtAids, a private foundation that invites leading international artists to produce work dealing with AIDS. In Barcelona, the show consisted of work by 15 artists (almost all based in Europe) and included nine new commissions, with notable contributions from Elmgreen & Dragset, Deimantas Narkeviˇcius, the young Chilean artist Lorena Zilleruelo, Latifa Echakhch from Morocco and England’s Matthew Darbyshire. Covering the entire ground floor of the museum’s west wing, the exhibition aims to raise awareness of the discrimination faced by HIV/AIDS sufferers today, which it does in a quietly determined way.

In one of the first rooms, Elmgreen & Dragset’s roughly 10-by-4-foot, glaring white wall-hung neon sign reading (and titled) AIDS Is Good Business for Some provided light for New Blood (both 2011), their almost 7-foot-tall polyester resin and marble replica of the Barberini Faun, which was hooked up to an IV bag half-filled with blood. The hospital-like installation unmistakably takes a stab at the pharmaceutical industry for using the AIDS epidemic to unload high-priced medicine.

Zilleruelo’s 21-minute film Pasos (2011) documents the everyday life of a young HIV-positive Chilean woman. The camera follows her daily routine: from afternoon tango lessons to evening walks on the beach. Without melodrama, in an almost distanced way, the protagonist’s voiceover tells of her encounter with the man from whom she would later contract the deadly virus. Unspectacular but deeply moving, the narrative evolves from romantic love story to tragedy.

Though only indirectly addressing the AIDS theme, Narkeviˇcius’s film Restricted Sensation (2011) is an impressive production that tells the story of a theater director in the Soviet Union incarcerated for his homosexuality. In a sequence reminiscent of a scene in a Kafka novel, the main character finds himself abducted in the middle of the night by policemen and charged, without evidence or hope of a trial, for his sexual orientation. Although fictional, the film is based on the Lithuanian artist’s research into the prevalence of homophobia during Soviet times, a condition that persists in many Eastern European countries today.

[“You Are Not Alone” is on view at MARCO Museum, Vigo, Spain, through Jan. 22, 2012.]

David Ulrichs