Who is remembered?
Who is forgotten?
And who is it that gets to decide?
In honor of this year’s World AIDS Day on December 1ST the ICI sought to serve as a catalyst for precisely this discussion through our tactical event entitled Forget Foucault. In this project various ICI members stationed themselves at two locations in Los Angeles armed with button badges printed with either Forget/Remember followed by the name of an individual lost to HIV/AIDS. It is a project that sought to challenge participants to ask of themselves who is it that they remember? Who is that they have forgotten?
As part of this project I was tasked with looking back to the ICI’s AIDS Bottle Project (1990-2000) to create an online facsimile of the comment journals used to record people’s reactions over the years. It was a project begun in 1990 that employed a simple, etched glass jar emblazoned with the name of a person to memorialize those who have died from AIDS and HIV-related illnesses. As I read through the comments I was struck by both the sincerity and the cynicism of the writers. It was a cynicism that I did not expect, but considering the time, was especially prevalent in the 1993 AIDS Bottle Project comment journal. It is a form of ignorance that unfortunately, for as far as we’ve come, I fear has more often than not over the years transformed into indifference.
With the multitude of burdens each of us has been tasked with it is easy to understand why so many disconnect themselves from a disease like AIDS that seemingly has no connection to them. In turn it is precisely because of this that the ICI’s projects are so impactful because they ground this disease. They place it in a context that we as mothers, fathers, siblings, and friends can understand.
For me this was best summed up in one entry in which one person posed a set of questions that we are all too familiar with:
“Do all of our years of turmoil, hope, love and living continue beyond our living, breathing cells? Or is what is left a vast emptiness of space contained only by the memories of those still alive?”. Williams College Museum of Art 1993 AIDS Bottle Project comments journal.
As this year World’s AIDS Day has come and gone it is questions like these that linger. Within all these thoughts of death, and loss, and remembrance, all we can do is live in a way in which we do not sit idly by and instead “dare to reach out your hand into the darkness, to pull another hand into the light” (Norman B. Rice).