Gran Fury – in context exhibition review

Gran Fury - in context exhibition review

Gran Fury Read My Lips – In context now

Auto Italia 2nd of October – 2nd December 2018

Wow finally a show marking the historical and political context of the AIDS crisis in the 80’s and 90’s. For the first time shown in the UK … How can this be ? Shown on the 30th Anniversary of the groups formation this really is a landmark show for the UK.

The curation of the show stays true to Gran Fury and the urgency of the message as Art as a form for change, activism, anger and the sharing of information… Posters, flyers, Videos and ephemera explode throughout the Gallery….

With HIV cases rising in the UK and elsewhere due to negligence by several generations of Governments who don’t take sexual health seriously and possibly a certain apathy by the UK population who are mostly molly cuddled into believing its not a crisis of epic proportions and as some say now “ well its like having diabetes “ Well…………………….

I’ll  tell you its not…………. its like having a life threatening immune eating monster on your back every single day whether it be the mental or physical effects of the toxic daily pill or the mental health issues surrounding life and death or shame and guilt…

Every year the Population of Amsterdam – 1 million people die of AIDS related deaths … Its not over by a long shot…. and this is where Artists and Activist groups come in for a long time they were the only ones who stood up, stood out and ACT (ed) UP… IN PROTEST….

It reminds me of a quote I recently read in AN Magazine by a Turner Prize Nominee … “Art is politics and if its not politics its not art, it’s just horseshoe that keeps the fucking system going” Michael Dean Interview AN Magazine online 2018. Gran Fury is definitely politics and in many ways despite being a historical show it still retains its urgency and power….. 

The works which spoke to me deeply in the show were boundless however I will focus on two which are as pressing today as they were Thirty years ago….

Welcome To America the only industrialised country besides South Africa without National Healthcare”

As a British person with access to the NHS this policy seems absurd to me… How can a Government sit back and let people die when we have both the medicine and money to heal people both today and back then when AZT was first invented… so much Politics and hatred of Blacks, Gays and Drug users proliferated the denial of the Virus and added to the problems that have extended to the present day? ……..

( However I say this and with the threat of Brexit looming there are already stories of people not able to receive their anti-retrovirals… The stability and ability for us to get medicine to where its needed is a pathetic and down right scary)

“Approximately 15 million people worldwide need access to antiretroviral therapy and currently less than 50% have access to these life saving drugs” according to Gran Fury on the back of the “ Read my lips” postcard exhibited at Auto Italia. What a scary statistic… How can we as Artists help re-address this balance of those who have and those who have nothing? 

The other work I would like to focus on is the work about the Catholic Church and its inability to accept and condone people of a “different sexual nature” This piece by Gran Fury is both so spot on and resonating with  my soul that i want to scream having been brought up in a Christian Family and certainly during the “ section 28” era of Great Britain. The Church has much to answer for and is a complex monolithic institution which has ruled both our thinking, being, and morals for millennia

….. This brings me to several works of my own firstly being “ Fuck me I have Love and HIV” first exhibited in New York in 2012 as a part of “ Mixed Messages” Curated By John Chaich By Visual Aids ( Previously Act Up ) On a cross the words “ Fuck Me I have love…. and I have have HIV are written boldly … as the writer/ artist and curator Aldrin Valdez wrote in Art-slant “Paul Chisholm’s work combines smirking irony and self-awareness with confrontational bluntness” This is true of the work and true of the intention… Art has the power for change and for sharing the horrors of humanity but how much has Both GranFury, Visual Aids and my own work enabled and changed a  society that is so scared of the “ other” and the “different”  to accept and help people who are effectively only infected with a virus; a virus that is no more scary than the common cold…… supposedly today ?

Hysteria, hatred and fear of the other and mis-information propel these things to the fore and less not us forget that its always when theres a crisis that the minorities are to blame….. GAYS, BLACKS, JEWS……… WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US NOW ?

What next for Artists, activists and the population as a whole … when will the next crisis begin?