Day with(out) Art

In 1991, a group gathered at LACMA to perform the AIDS Bottle Project, an interactive action piece that brought attention to the AIDS crisis. The performance was organized by the Los Angeles–based Institute for Cultural Inquiry, a nonprofit education and cultural organization that uses “visual technologies” to investigate the intersection of “human activity and capabilities we call ‘culture.’ ”

AIDS Bottle Project, organized by the Institute for Cultural Inquiry, Los Angeles. One of the pieces took place at LACMA on December 1, 1991.

Each bottle seen in the video above represents someone who has died from complications due to AIDS or HIV. Seeing the plane of bottles against the concrete is a chilling reminder of how many lives claimed by the epidemic. Names of the individuals and the years of their deaths are etched on the glass. Under each of the lids is a brief biography of the person. The public was encouraged to contribute to the work by adding pieces of ephemera or mementos that related to the person being memorialized. The bottles did not simply serve as memorials—they also represented the complex relationships and communities that linked all participants together in raising awareness about AIDS and HIV.

Today, December 1, 2013, is the United Nations’ World AIDS Day. The day raises awareness about the AIDS epidemic and reflects on the progress and future goals of fighting the disease. The theme of this year’s campaign is “Zero Discrimination”: “to end stigma, discrimination and complacency, to stop new HIV infections among children and to ensure access to care and treatment for all those that need it.”

For the art community, today also marks Day with(out) Art, a national day of action for and awareness of AIDS, and specifically the impact the epidemic has made on the arts community. While incredible progress has been made in battling AIDS and HIV, much more needs to be done. Day with(out) Art aims to bring attention to AIDS and HIV by raising the visibility of fight against this disease that has, as illustrated by AIDS Bottle Project, made a mark on so many of us.

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