AIDS Art Activism Women 1980s - 2005
Rudy Lemcke, February 7, 2005

Last month Moira Roth and I were having a continued conversation about art, archives, performance, politics, activism and history. I mentioned that I had discovered an old tape of ACT-UP demonstrations that I videotaped in the early 1990s. Also I had discovered a tape of "Immemorial," a 1992 performance that I had done for World AIDS Day, "A Day Without Art," at the De Young Museum. This video had been taped by my friend Mic Sweney. I decided to edit the tapes as part of an historical record of the time and add it to my archives of AIDS and artwork from the Bay Area. Moira asked if she could show the video to her art history class on performance. We discussed AIDS activism and video and I mentioned that Mic Sweney, who videotaped the "Immemorial" piece, had also, in collaboration with Eric Slade, created "Acting Up for Prisoners" (a major 1992 video, widely distributed), which is about ACT UP and women prisoners with AIDS. Moira said maybe we could show the videos together as an evening program and invite the Mills community.

More exchanges followed, and the event began to expand.

Stephan Jost, the Mills College Art Museum director, said that he would like to participate in the event and that he had prepared a lecture on AIDS and Art five years ago, and would update this as his contribution.

As we talked more about putting the evening together, I realized that Crystal Mason, the new Executive Director of Jon Sims Center for the Performing Arts, was one of the people interviewed for the "Acting Up for Prisoners" video. She had been working then for the SF AIDS Foundation and had done outreach to women in prison with HIV/AIDS. She agreed to be part of the event.

Janet L. Holmgren, the Mills College president, became interested in the event, and not only agreed to introduce it, but suggested it be scheduled to coincide with the meeting of the Mills College Board of Trustees, and that Vivian Stephenson--chair of the Mills Board of Trustees, and a member of the Board of Directors, Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation Board--also speak. The final speaker to be invited was Margarita Gandia, co-chair, Board of Directors, National AIDS Memorial Grove, who was asked to give a brief presentation on the 2005 finalists for an AIDS memorial to be constructed in the AIDS Grove of Golden Gate Park.

This was how the evening took shape.

It was not a plan to explain AIDS or be a History.

The evening organically grew from a discussion on Art and Activism, Archives and History, then and now, to an event that reflected the continuing involvement of a group of friends, acquaintances and a community throughout the years.

The February 16, 2005 event together with this reader is our attempt to make a difference in the struggle against HIV/AIDS by keeping the issues in the public consciousness through education, art and commitment to community involvement.

Rudy Lemcke, February 7, 2005