Positively affecting HIV/AIDS through art 

15th edition of exhibition attracts artists from Concordia and abroad

By Russ Cooper

VAV Gallery goers experience the art work during the opening day of <em>Inter—</em> on March 30. Magnifying glass

VAV Gallery goers experience the art work during the opening day of Inter— on March 30.

Exploring what desire means isn't always about discovering what we want and why. For those involved in this year's HIV/AIDS exhibition, desire comes in the form of advancing awareness and creative expression.

From March 30 to April 10, the 15th edition of Inter— (pronounced ‘interdash’) is being held in the VAV Gallery.

This year, eight students are curating the work of 12 artists (seven from the class, four guest artists and one group project of three students) under the theme of 'interdisciplinarity.' The exhibition will be focusing less on the morality and the polarizing issues surrounding HIV. Rather, organizers have chosen to examine its impact and the concept of harm reduction.

“We’ve chosen art that reflects how HIV intersects with different aspects of life,” says curator Erin Silver. "We're not going to have clichéd art with, say, condoms or African imagery. The intention is not to alienate; it's not a question-answer, right-wrong kind of thing."

The show stems from the interdisciplinary class, HIV/AIDS: Cultural, Social, Scientific Aspects of the Pandemic, and the exhibition has accompanied the course all but one of its 16 years. The two-term course exposes students to academics and community workers and professionals from a range of perspectives, all sharing their experience of work related to HIV. Students themselves participate in internships around the community, devoting four hours per week to getting first-hand experience at organizing, fundraising or front-line intervention.

Those involved in participating organizations, the art community and the course over the years all are invited to the show.

“The reception has been great. We’re really hoping to further bridge between university and the greater Montreal community,” says Silver, who completed the class in 2004-05 and served as an intern for the show the same year. She's now completing her MA in art history.

Moving beyond city limits, second-year women studies' student and class member Liam Michaud O'Grady’s contribution to Inter— is the Prisoner Correspondence Project. A collaboration with QPRIG Concordia, the project links gay, lesbian, transsexual, transgender, gendervariant, two-spirit, intersex, bisexual and queer inmates in Canada and U.S. with people from these same communities outside of prison. The project will be facilitating a workshop entitled, You Improvise to Survive: Queer Sexual Safety Inside and Outside of Prisons on April 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Centre for Gender Advocacy (2110 Mackay).

“The project is organized centrally around how [inmates] navigate sexual safety, HIV prevention and risk reduction in an environment that prevents these things from being a possibility,” says O’Grady. “We’re hoping that holding the workshop will function to reintroduce prison issues back into AIDS issues, histories and prevention work.”

This is the first time in the history of the show that organizers have held an open call for artists beyond the classroom. With his contribution, Maine-based guest artist Ryan Conrad is placing a series of provocative posters indiscriminately around the city to create a viral buzz, prompting observers to pose questions about its artistic interpretation and its placement. At the VAV, he'll be doing the same, affixing his work on the gallery's walls at random.

"It's a method to bring a public project back into the gallery," says Silver.

The vernissage will take place 7 p.m. on April 2 at the VAV, kicking off a number of events throughout the 11-day exhibition. Check out Vincent Chevalier's So… when did you figure out that you had AIDS? performative artist talk on April 2 at 5:30 p.m. in VA 234 and again on April 8 in the VAV; Cam Matamoros will be giving an artist talk on Wednesday the 8th in the VAV at 6 p.m.; Closing remarks by Erin Silver and a talk by Marty Fink will be held April 10 at 7 p.m. in EV 1.605.

In addition, as part of its 15th anniversary, a wrap-up party to celebrate the benchmark at the Eastern Bloc on April 11 will feature Toronto-based artist Mikiki, as well as internationally renowned DJs CFCF and Will Munro.

To learn about the exhibition or to keep up as it unfolds, visit interdash.wordpress.com.


Concordia University