To those of you blaming tryptophan for your Monday morning lag,
The Carpenter Center here at Harvard has organized an extraordinary exhibit on the art of ACT UP (that’s AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) that runs until December 23. For those outside the Cambridge area, you can see many of the powerfully confrontational posters, stickers, and postcards designed by ACT UP artist group Gran Fury online at the New York Public Library.
The Carpenter Center exhibit also includes hours and hours of testimonies from the ACT UP Oral History Project, but you can also visit their site to view excerpts and complete transcripts. Interviewees include ACT UP founder Larry Kramer, journalist Michelangelo Signorile, filmmaker Tom Kalin, and NYC artist Peter Cramer.
For a sense of how AIDS was covered by the mainstream press, check out this 1983 cover story from New York magazine, and this 1985 Time article, which hit the stands shortly after Rock Hudson’s death.
For a more visceral sense of how the queer community itself experienced the frightening and devastating spread of AIDS, I recommend watching Bill Sherwood’s astonishing and unsentimental 1986 film Parting Glances, starring a young Steve Buscemi, available for instant viewing on Netflix.
Even in the 1980s, of course, AIDS was on its way to becoming a worldwide epidemic. UCLA’s AIDS Posters collection includes health advisories from Japan (on the left) to Uganda (on the right).