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"Beyond Medical Cure: Remedy, Care, and Curation of HIV-Positive Artists Records with the Visual AIDS Archive Project," presented by Marika Cifor, PhD
Bio: Marika Cifor, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Information School at the University of Washington. She is a feminist scholar of archival studies and digital studies. Her research investigates how individuals and communities marginalized by gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity, and HIV-status are represented and how they document and represent themselves and their social movements in archives and digital cultures. This multidisciplinary scholarship uncovers how archives and digital technologies, data, and cultures are shaping identities, experiences, and social movements. She holds PhD in Information Studies from UCLA and an MLIS from Simmons College.
Abstract: AIDS activists, advocacy organizations, physicians and medical researchers, and people living with HIV/AIDS have devoted vast energy and resources to finding a medical cure for HIV/AIDS. Now well into the fourth decade of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a medical cure remains elusive. Drawing from her book-in-progress, Viral Cultures: Activist Archives at the End of AIDS, Marika Cifor examines activist archiving as cure. Since 1994, Visual AIDS a community-based arts organization has documented, collected, preserved, and made accessible the records of artists living with HIV and estates of artists who have perished, in order to preserve and honor their legacies, and to expose and redress AIDS’ injustices. The holistic cure Visual AIDS demands is requisite to responding in kind to an epidemic that is and always has been political and cultural as much as biomedical. In this talk, Cifor analyzes the Archive Project’s curative efforts and their implications in three parts. First, examining the archives as a remedy for one kind of death, that of artistic career. Second, she turns to AIDS archiving as communal acts of critical care. Finally, she examines the archives as curing, preserving digitally to ensure long-term animation. The Archive Project and the Artist+ Registry, its digital archives counterpart, highlight the material and conceptual affordances of archiving as anti-AIDS activism. Its records and their nimble activation hold imaginative capacities for challenging persistent gendered, racialized, and classed discrimination and stigmatization faced by those living with HIV/AIDS. The archives’ work also demonstrates the conjoined limitations of art and activist archiving in meeting urgent needs and redressing harm. Despite such constraints, activist archiving can vitally engender survival.