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Visualizing the Mythologies of HIV/AIDS, the Caucasus and Beyond / 2018 International Aids Conference / Hermitage Amsterdam & RAI

The starting premise of the chalkboard projects (see The Caucasian History Lessons) are the questionable ways in which history is taught in schools. The installation shows how the “official stories” are undone when they are lined-up one beside the other, creating yet another birds-eye view of contested histories, borders, and movements of people that continue to unfold in the present.Upon invitation of AFEW Culture Initiative I redirect my attention onto global public health matters and looking particularly at the information distributed around HIV/AIDS and related subjects, a similar issue emerges. Brochures, leaflets and historical lessons are in and of themselves a site for the politizisation of HIV/AIDS, whether in ‘East’ or ‘West’.

These outlets for the transmission of information thus become a metaphor of how institutional apparatuses and individual lobby groups reformulate scientific facts, knowledge and social imaginaries to their own advantage. As a relative outsider, I reflected upon strong imagery deployed about and by HIV/AIDS mobilizations over time – imagery that is still in use, though it may not accurately represent life with HIV/AIDS in a present-day context. I question the mechanisms through which imagery can capture very complex subjectivities, whether more or less true to the context, whether or not well intended. For instance, although fear has arguably long been disproven as a working dissuasion tactic with regards to unprotected sex, HIV/AIDS continues to be visualized, remembered and imagined pejoratively in the form of death/starvation often under the banner of ‘awareness raising’.

The chalkboards both emulates the environment of a site for education/politicisation and encourages the visitor to challenge the status quo or current discourses on HIV/AIDS. It is an attempt at ‘democratizing’ the flow of information on highly complex phenomena that have a tangible impact on the lives of those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS; mainly the uneducated class, which is referred to by NGO's and other institutions as "key risk population”, basically the lumpen proletariat.

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