If you visit the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art’s website today, you won’t find your visual senses tingled by their regularly shown artwork-of-the-day. A black square is shown instead, in observance of World AIDS Day and the Day With(out) Art. Today, many art distributors will be making a conscious decision to show nothing, while others expand outwards to use art to tell the story of the impact of AIDS.
The Day With(out) Art is an annual day of action and mourning in response to the AIDS crisis which began December 1, 1989 (as simply, ‘the Day Without Art’). In 1997 the name of the day was modified so that rather than excluding cultural programming, the day could highlight the art projects of artists living with HIV/AIDS and art that explores the challenges experienced around the world as a result of AIDS could be celebrated. The name “was retained as a metaphor for the chilling possibility of a future day without art or artists.”
Visual AIDS, an organization dedicated to creating HIV prevention and AIDS awareness through visual arts while assisting artists affected by HIV/AIDS, is partnering with director Ira Sachs to mark the 20 years of action and remembrance by screening “Last Address” tonight at a collection of galleries, including Tate Modern, Museum of Art & Design, New Museum, Wexner Center for the Arts, Andy Warhol Museum, El Museo del Barrio New York, Nakamura Keith Haring Collection, Museum of Sex, Grey Art Gallery at NYU, Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation, Union Gallery at University of Arizona, Rachel Uffner Gallery, Fales Library & Special Collections at NYU, CAMPsafe, Cleopatra’s, Bloomberg and The LGBT Center of NYC, among others.UNAIDS released last week in their 2010 AIDS epidemic update that new HIV infections have fallen 20% over the last 10 years. It also reported that 33.3 million people worldwide are living with HIV – the highest number ever, and that 2.6 million people were newly infected in 2009, while 2 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses during that year.
Many other organizations, including the MET, are participating in keeping “the light on HIV and human rights” by participating in the “Light for Rights” event. While the MET will dim the lights in front of the main building at 6:15pm, more than 100 events across the world will dim lights for the same purposes as others will go without art.
“The dimming of lights reminds us of the continued violations of human rights that force marginalized populations and people living with HIV to live in the shadows,” said Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, in a press release. “When cities turn back on the lights, they symbolically remind us of the need to shine the spotlight on the human rights of every person affected by HIV.”
So today either go without or actively seek out art to honour, remember, and think of the importance of human rights for people living with HIV/AIDS.