Video as an AIDS counter-archive

December 11, 2013 - 7:00 p.m.
Activity organised in connection with

Research residencies 2012-2013

In collaboration with

AIDS Anarchive began within the framework of the 2012-2013 research residencies at Museo Reina Sofía, as part of the production process of a “counter-archive” or an anarchive of AIDS policies, with attention being paid for the first time to practices occurring outside of the Anglo-Saxon or Western and Central European settings. This activity, a video session accompanied by the commentary of the researchers and curators, Aimar Arriola and Nancy Garín, partially explains the research project and marks the end of the project’s research visit at the Museum.

As one of the initial hypotheses, the researchers examined specific case studies as a means to explore the functions of the archive and of archival practices within the array of critical forms of cultural production related to AIDS since the late 1980s. In them we find an opportunity to radically question the logic of access or exclusion and of archival representation privileges. 

AIDS cultural activism soon came to occupy archival space. According to queer theorist Roger Hallas (Reframing Bodies, 2009) in his discussion of what he describes as queer AIDS media, it would do so considering the archive not just a space for the preservation of material and memory but rather as a tool that gives evidence of the demands of the present. Following Hallas, but taking the matter a step further, the intention here is to propose that AIDS-related critical videographic production should be viewed as one of its possible counter-archives.

While video as an artistic medium and form of counter-information appeared in North America and Western Europe during the early gay liberation movements and second-wave feminism of the late 1960s, in Spain and other contexts with post-dictatorial regimes, such as Chile and Brazil, it would take another two decades or more for the critical use of video among artists and activists to gain strength. In fact, the consolidation of video would take place in parallel with the expansion of globalisation and its economic driving force, neoliberal policies; in other words, the very context in which AIDS appeared.

In this regard, the alignment of AIDS and video has favoured the emergence of local responses to the global dimension of the pandemic, as shown, in part, by this selection of videos, in which, as the Chilean writer and essayist Lina Meruane (Viajes Virales, 2012) puts it, the AIDS body no longer appears as a prominent sign of globalisation, but rather as its counter-face, its negative figuration, that which is capable of declaring checkmate on the deceptive semantics of the global flow. 

Organised into three critical blocks, the program is conceived as an initial manifestation of this counter-archive, albeit limited to the time and extension of one day of video, and it includes the work of the following artists, collectives and initiatives:


Actividad pasada December 11, 2013
Information / Counter-information

Agustí Camps, Jordi Castañé, Jordi Guillemot and Pere Roca. TV-SIDA
Video, 1993. 36’ [screening of extracts]. Copy provided by the Documentation Centre at Museo Reina Sofía

Carrying Society / Prospecciones Urbanas S.A.
¿Sabes si...? Prospecciones # 700-738
Video, 1997?  27’ [screening of extracts]. Copy courtesy of a private archive

Guillermo Moscoso.
Video, 2009. 10’. Copy courtesy of the artist

This block looks at one of the main battlefields of AIDS-related critical practices, an area that would mark an important aspect of the micropolitics taking place in the 21st century: information as an object of struggle. 

Actividad pasada December 11, 2013
Displacing the Espaliú paradigm

Las Pekinesas (Miguel Benlloch, Tomás Navarro and Rafael Villegas). SIDA DA
Video, 1985. 8’ 49”. Copy courtesy of Ático Siete, Granada

Virginia Villaplana and Liliana Couso (for LSD). Retroalimentación
Video, 1998. 5’. Copy courtesy of Hamaca, Barcelona

Águeda Bañón. El tajo
Video, 1996. 3’. Copy courtesy of the artist

Pepe Miralles. Despedida circular
Video, 1995. 1’ 58”. Copy courtesy of the artist

This block adds further nuances to the usual characterisation of Pepe Espaliú (1955-1993) as a paradigmatic figure in the critical forms of AIDS cultural production. It does so by introducing a series of pieces that are less visible and that together make up a more complex cartography of AIDS policies in Spain. This block is not intended to be a “critique of Espaliú” but rather a deeper analysis of this subject’s foundational narratives. 

Actividad pasada December 11, 2013
Ritualities / rejection of “bare death”

Gloria Camiruaga. Yeguas del apocalipsis
Betacam SP, 1990. 6’  20’’. Copy courtesy of Heure Exquise!, France

Gloria Camiruaga.
Casa particular
Betacam SP, 1990. 9’ 30’’. Copy courtesy of Heure Exquise!, France

Francisco Copello.
Hello Again
Video, 2005. 13’. [screening of extract]. Copy courtesy of Francisca Vargas (Archivo Copello) and Claudio Marcone

Rafael França.
Prelúdio de uma morte anunciada
Video, 1991. 5’. Copy courtesy of the Jacqueline Martins Gallery, Sao Paulo

This block proposes the ritualisation and signification of death as an interpretive key to large part of the artistic production related to AIDS which, according to the postcolonial theorist Jean Comaroff, is an attempt to avoid the ultimate abjection of "bare death."