Reflections Mod4 Week 11

A brief critique of the films shown at HIVideo 2017Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.08.05 copyScreen Test (Mateo Sierra 2017) Fig. 1 above

A triptych of windows show a lithe young man performing for the camera. The artist has based the piece on an interview by Felix Gonzalez-Torres about routine. Sierra performs actions of his own routine. In the left frame he poses fully dressed. In the right frame he shaves his head stripped to the waist and in the centre he dances to the music playlist that overlays the piece. With the subject of HIV as the theme of the event we assume he himself is HIV+ and is therefore showing us a body at odds to the assumed image of the sickly AIDS victim we still remember from the 1980’s. Why this film runs at over 15 minutes when we were told to keep our submission to 3 minutes I could not say. Unfortunately we lose interest long before the first five minutes and puzzle what we are expected to take away from the rest of the film. Indeed during the screening one audience member texted me “Please wake me when it’s over…”. With the intent of the Event to engage and educate the harsh conclusion is that this particular piece is not very successful. Twenty minutes of a young man preening before a lens does little to bring awareness of the current issues surrounding HIV to the minds of the audience.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.09.00L’INFORMAZIONE E PREVENZIONE (by Luciano Parisi 2017) {Information & Prevention} Fig. 2 & 3 above

This second film in the running order is a much more engaging piece. A mixture of glitched media images and still lives overlaid with a foot tapping pop tune that immediately catches our attention. One recurring image has Barbie offering herself to a phallically altered Michelangelo’s David which brings the message across with a distinctly camp tongue in cheek. There is a distinct reference to the false idols we have created for ourselves via the media and some secrets of the nature of cruising. The frames occasionally flash in time with the beat so the whole appears more like an MTV music video than an educational Art piece.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.11.05U (by Menelas and George Kanis 2017) Fig. 4 & 5 above

Drag Queen and HIV activist Zackie Oh navigates the way through the mundanities of a humdrum day in order to highlight the normality of life with HIV. Making coffee, smoking cigarettes, snuggles with the dog and making up ready for a performance. The documentary style of this film works wonderfully to normalise; not only life with HIV (the only actual reference is the Bio Hazzard tattoo that those in the know would recognise) but also the normality of drag. The tatty tiny apartment is not so much claustrophobic as homely…a cozy little safe space that littered with objects that reflect the personality of the owner.  A list of text at the end of the film reads as an accusation for those who cannot be bothered to keep themselves informed…those who play dice with their health when a little knowledge would keep them relaxed and safe.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.11.44 copyCABARET: JOSE & TROY (by Santiago Echeverry 2017) Fig. 6 above

From the artists statement “. In the era of PReP and Undetectability, men are rediscovering a sexuality that was repressed for way too many years.”  The two male forms are reduced to lines, contours & patterns as hints of masculine intimacy are played out before our eyes. Nothing graphic, nothing shocking, no nudity which makes the sensuality all the more appealing. As the artists state…fear of HIV has made sex such a terrifying action for over a generation now that it will take another generation for us to realise we can love without fear again. By referencing futuristic electronic algorithms we are reminded how far we have retreated into the cyber in order to avoid the physical contact which could infect us. Yet the subtle unabashed intimacy of the two protagonists inform us of the potential for change…it’s ok to enjoy the tactility of intimacy again…we can remember how to really connect. The overall style of the piece is a little reminiscent of  Max Headroom the VeeJay (Video DJ) that appeared in the mid 1980’s – a nod perhaps to those heady days of hedonism just as AIDS first hit.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.12.15 copyKIEM (by Wilhelm Vincent 2017) Fig. 7 above

Filmed in B&W with sombre music this is a short piece that takes itself very seriously. Switching between a documentary style interview with a long-term survivor who explains the history of ARVs (Anti-retro viral drugs) and their side-effects; and a very high-contrast out of focus face that explains the historical effect of the virus upon the local populace. It is an interesting piece that factually brings the message across, however I have to take issue with a couple of things. The use of stroboscopic effects with the high-contrast face is extremely uncomfortable to watch (this may be a deliberate ploy; but could also be dangerous to anyone who suffers from photosensitive seizures) and also the facts that are put forward are not necessarily current. The narrator mentions it being 90% safer to engage in unprotected sex with someone who is undetectable, but this is not correct according to current research which has proved undetectable =  untransmittable and this is the main message for the whole event this year.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.12.57 copyBE ENRAGED, BECOME EXPLOSIVE (by Rosanne Robertson 2017) Fig. 8 above

This is an abstract collaged moving image piece that brings to mind some of the tropes of feminist photography from the 70’s and early 80’s. The artist states she is using ‘agitation’ to make the viewer consider. The main body of the work focuses on the groin area of a naked female as she attempts to sit comfortably upon a stool. The soundtrack is a voiceover explaining sexual exploration along with slightly irritating sounds that are probably chosen to add to the discomfort. Several times during this performance the artist exposes her genitalia; which to a predominantly gay male audience is an interestingly uncomfortable experience. The whole film brings to mind the unselfish work done by the gay female population at the start of the AIDS crisis – a particularly generous and selfless act by a group who were the least likely to be infected themselves. This film is also a reminder that HIV is not a gay male disease.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.13.23 copyCOLD RAIN 1989 (by Dave Russo & Emmanuel Barrouyer 2017) Fig. 9 above

Dave Russo narrates his 1989 poem Cold Rain with Emmanuel Barrouyer providing the visuals and the music being Piano Silas Bassa “Metamorphosis #2” by Philip Glass. A haunting melancholy piece that takes us back to the time before drugs enabled us to survive. The visuals are extremely simple which allows the focus to remain upon the words of the poem. The film follows Barrouyer as he walks under an avenue of green leafed trees while we listen to Russo read his poem; culminating at the end we realise the avenue is within a cemetery. The last frames are a leaf falling from the trees as the colour drains to B&W – a poignant metaphor for the devastation this disease has wrought upon our community.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.14.39 copyROCCO (by Castro 2017) Fig. 10 above

This is one of two pieces that actually have a narrative and are short stories as opposed to art films. It tells the tale of a brief relationship and how the chance of one being infected by the other placed an insurmountable strain upon the relationship. Probably the most striking short scene is where one male anoints the other with oil…starting at his feet in what is probably a reference to Mary washing the feet of Christ and how we have been seen as ultimate sinners with AIDS being God’s vengeance for our devilry.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.15.07 copyINFINITE SURFACE (by Jonathan Armour & Richard Sawdon Smith 2017) Fig. 11 above

A strikingly strange piece which seems to take the camera upon a journey within the body of Richard Sawdon-Smith. The camera floats around the body much as corpuscles do…or indeed as the HIV virus does in its attempt to infect cells. By taking us within the body it intimates the normality of living with HIV. The soundtrack of blood flowing down veins taking life to muscles and organs just highlights the fragility of existence. By laying the whole body bare not only outside but within it is a masterful play at de-stigmatising those that carry this virus.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.16.06 copyTRACE (by Debbie Sharp 2017) Fig. 12 above

Beginning with an orange glowing orb you can almost feel the warmth radiating from this false sun. Much in the way we did when Olafur Eliasson’s sun was sited in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. A whispered voice almost beyond the bounds of hearing utters sensual words of persuasion – of the desire of one person for the intimacy of another. The voice begs “leave a trace of you within me” – something we are only now able to do now we know it has become safe to share bodily fluids again.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.16.47 copyPreñame: Breed Me (by Jose Luis Cortes & Jorge Pratts 2017) Fig. 13 above

This is the second piece with a distinct narrative. The scene is set in the aftermath of a hurricane. The protagonist enters a tax & begins to recount his tale. Using close crops of hands, cigarettes, face & steering wheel we hear about his search for drugs & sex. We are not told of his sexuality…the assumption is that that is irrelevant …all he wants is sex and drugs. He tells us of the bug-chasers who are immediately drawn to him once he discloses (lies) about his status. Using cold violet light within the cab & post-apocalyptic oranges & reds for the street scenes he paints a world still tainted by the drug induced haze of a hedonistic weekend.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.17.25CUMSLUT  / DEEPTHROAT (by Stiofan O’Ceallaigh 2017) Fig. 14 & 15 above

This is a diptych of films that appropriate hard-core pornography overlaid with romantic ballads as a note to the irony of what we are watching. The focus is fairly close-cropped so we feel a little removed from the action yet we are left in little doubt as to what is happening. The fact we are twice removed from these men’s intimacy is a comment upon how fearful sex has become and the kitsch romantic ballads merely highlight our empty search for immediate gratification when in reality we crave something far deeper. I am a little unsure how I feel about these two pieces. They are quite shocking in their graphic content and this is particularly awkward when shown in ‘polite’ company – yet this shock value works very well when combined with the irony of the soundtrack. They run concurrently as two films, but I would have been tempted to have them side by side as a real diptych – possibly on two screens with just the one song.

Screen Shot 2017-12-05 at 19.18.36 copyIMPUNITY UGANDA (by Isaac Matovu & Ismile Matovu 2016) Fig. 16 above

The last film of the evening is a traditional documentary. A very thought provoking film that highlights the geographical difference in attitudes and access to health care. If you are suspected of being LGBTI in Uganda then you are lucky if you end up in jail…the alternative is often a death sentence meted out by the populace on the street. So to try to access anti-retroviral therapy to combat HIV is extremely difficult. For those of us in the West, whose access to these life-saving drugs we take for granted, this is a particularly sobering film. The participants come across just as us…with the same hopes, dreams and fears yet their lives are a daily struggle to keep their secret and hope against hope attitudes change in their country.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s