VIdéoH / HIVideo
(Other) Cultural Responses: AIDS and Video in Montréal (1984-1990)
Vidéographe has invited Vincent Bonin, Conal McStravick and Maria Nengeh Men-sah to discuss Montreal video practices related to the HIV/AIDS crisis from 1984 to 1990, and is delighted to announce that the IAS – the International AIDS Society – has accepted VIdéoH / HIVideo as an independent event affiliated with AIDS 2022, the 24th International AIDS Conference, which will take place in Montreal, Canada, from July 29 to August 2, 2022.
This event will also allude to the 5th International AIDS Conference on HIV/AIDS in 1989, which we remember today mainly for the paradigm shift it operated. This encounter of specialists, mostly from the medical field, became also a meeting site for persons with AIDS (PWAs) and their allies. The conference was the scene of an uprising led by members of ACT UP (New York and Montreal), AIDS ACTION NOW and Réaction sida, who confronted international indifference around the crisis. These groups released a manifesto, Le manifeste de Montréal, bringing together clear demands for human rights to be acknowledged in research protocols on new medication. For the first time, at the International AIDS Conference, Montreal 1989, a cultural component, in which video played an important role, was programmed alongside the talks by researchers.
Vidéographe and other video production and distribution organisations around the world have preserved videotapes made by people living with HIV/AIDS since the 1980s and today these archives bear witness to a global resistance. In order to reactivate a local history embedded within this international network, McStravick and Bonin will examine two works of this period, between the mid-eighties and early nineties, produced for a Montreal context. Journal of the Plague Year (After Daniel Defoe) (1984) by British artist Stuart Marshall, an early gallery-based iteration of video activism around HIV/AIDS, was first exhibited at Optica Gallery in Montreal in 1984. Le récit d’A (1990) by Esther Valiquette could be considered the inaugural work on HIV/AIDS in French-speaking Quebec, and one of the first made by a woman.
The videos, of a duration of 20 minutes each, will be screened before the presentations, also lasting approximately 20 minutes. A discussion between McStravick, Bonin and the audience will be moderated by researcher Maria Nengeh Mensah. The event will last approximately two hours.
Conal McStravick responds to Stuart Marshall, The Journal of the Plague Year (after Daniel Defoe)(1984), excerpts from the video installation, 20 minutes.
The Journal of the Plague Year (after Daniel Defoe) (1984) was commissioned for Video 84: international video conferences, and presented at the Optica gallery, in Montreal, in 1984. The installation is one of a suite of highly influential AIDS-related works by Marshall, preceded by Kaposi’s Sarcoma (A Plague and its Symptoms) (1983), and followed by Bright Eyes (1984). Kaposi’s Sarcoma is lost to the archives and Bright Eyes has become a canonical AIDS archive classic. In contrast, Marshall’s lesser-known Journal offers a unique prospect within his own and the wider AIDS archive to re-examine his contribution to Quebecois AIDS video activism past and present. In 1984, the stigmatisation of people with AIDS (PWA’s) in Britain was a direct outcome of tabloid coverage fueled by disinformation and homophobia. Marshall proposed a counter discourse by directly engaging the viewer. McStravick’s presentation will build on recent and accumulated research in the collections of the Quebec Gay Archives, ArQuives, Vtape, and Vidéographe, to explore the ways in which Marshall’s trailblazing video activism and LGBTQ+ TV documentaries developed through video, LGBTQ+ and AIDS activist networks in Montréal and Canada, contribute to global narratives on HIV/AIDS. This will consider how the past and the possible future “reappearance” of The Journal of the Plague Year (after Daniel Defoe) since 1984 will continue to speak to the past, present and future of AIDS through global transnational AIDS activist narratives and contemporary social justice movements.
Vincent Bonin responds to Esther Valiquette Le récit d’A, 1990, 19 minutes 30 seconds.
Esther Valiquette, a PWA, began working on Le récit d’A (co-produced by Vidéographe) while she started meeting people who shared with her their experience of surviving with HIV/AIDS longer than the prognoses offered by doctors. During a stay in San Francisco, Valiquette collected many testimonies. However, at the stage of editing the tape, she kept only fragments of an interview with one interlocutor, Andrew Small, a gay men. Valiquette didn’t call herself an activist, but she had nevertheless found the formal means to break a silence, and to link her speech acts with that of another. In this way, her work finds a resonance with the hitherto unprecedented speaking to power that happened at the conference of 1989. After making Le récit d’A, Valiquette produced Le singe bleu in 1992 and Extenderis in 1993, before her disappearance in 1994. Using the sequence of the circulation/exhibition history of the single channel piece as framework, Vincent Bonin will comment upon the different discursive contexts in which Le récit d’A existed while the artist was living, and posthumously (festival circuit, museum events in contemporary art, academic research). Le récit d’A is also known as one of the first works on the subject of HIV/AIDS by a woman French Canadian artist, though the epidemic had been addressed by a number of anglophone gay-identified Canadian artists during the 1980s.The process of translation and of deferred reception, embedded by Valiquette in the work itself, will also be commented upon by Bonin through an attempt in slightly displacing this narrative of beginnings.
Vincent Bonin is a Montreal based autor and curator.
In 2012, with curator Catherine J. Morris, he co-organized Materializing “Six Years”: Lucy Lippard and the Emergence of Conceptual Art at the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Brooklyn Museum. In 2014, he organized the exhibition D’un discours qui ne serait pas du semblant / Actors, Networks, Theories at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery and Dazibao, Montreal, focusing on the reception of “French Theory.” In 2014, he curated Passages to abstraction: Geneviève Cadieux at de Musée d’art de Joliette. In 2016, he organized Response, a dialogue with philosopher Catherine Malabou, at the Musée d’art contemporain des Laurentides, Saint-Jérôme. Bonin has edited and written several books. His essays have been published by the magazines Canadian Art and Fillip, the Centre André Chastel, the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Les presses du réel, Sternberg Press and the Vancouver Art Gallery, among others.
Conal McStravick is a queer, non-binary artist, independent researcher, moving image programmer and writer based in London, UK. Since 2012, McStravick has worked with the archive of UK artist, film maker and AIDS activist Stuart Marshall (1949-1993).
McStravick has staged retrospective screenings, public presentations and collaborative workshops on Stuart Marshall at Hospitalfield, Arbroath and AMIF2015, Glasgow, in 2015; Birkbeck Essay Film Festival and HIV /AIDS Community Lecture Series in 2016; Communal Knowledge, Showroom, London, as well as public events at ICA, London, MAC, Belfast, The Northern Charter, Newcastle and presentations at BFI Flare, Newcastle University and Chelsea College of Art in 2017-19.
In 2020, McStravick contributed the online exhibition and interview series Picturing a Pandemic through LUX and Vtape, and in 2020-22, Pride Inside and Queer Care Camp as part of Desperate Living at Studio Voltaire, London. In 2021, they presented on Stuart Marshall for Vtape and Archive/Counterarchive and in 2022 will undertake a PhD on Marshall at Northumbria University, UK. They write on the feminist and LGBTQ+ archive and contemporary art practices for Art Monthly, MIRAJ and LUXonline.
Maria Nengeh Mensah (PhD Communication) is a Full Professor at the School of Social Work at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), and teaches feminist studies there. She has been leading the Testimonial Cultures action-research team since 2010. Via her community-based approach, her focus is on the challenges related to the stigmatization and social inclusion of sexual, gender and body diversity. Throughout her collaborations, she has accompanied several marginalized groups in their struggle for greater social justice. She is a board member of CACTUS Montreal, a supervised injection site.