Visual Aids Gallery

Act Up, New York City

Bright graphics and snappy slogans give this poster from the trendy Soho art world such a strong visual impact that it may be seen to represent the perfect synthesis of Art and AIDS Activism. New York's popular graffiti artist Keith Haring (whose smallest paintings sell for thousands of dollars) donated the design to ACT UP - an act of generosity that was no mere public relations gesture since Haring himself, as a person living with AIDS, knew at first hand the social consequences of the public's ignorant fear of the syndrome. Haring died in February 1990. Oracular slogans comment on his quaking pictographs, apparently those proverbial primates who see, hear, and speak no evil, engaged in a jerky St. Vitus's dance, emitting auras of angst and panic. Some clues to the identity of these denizens of the disco of the damned are offered by the pink triangle, and icon of Gay Liberation appropriated from the Nazi concentration camps where it was worn by homosexual inmates. Haring has visually linked the triangle with the pink Xs inside each dancer. Is the source of their discord therefore political and social oppression? Or do the pink Xs also mark the spot of HIV infection? Or is this an emblem of the bigots within the General Public, a chorus of ignoramuses trembling with fatal, inarticulate fear? The poster implies that if activism could transform ignorance into knowledge and silence into noisy discourse, somehow courage and life would result. However an indifferent public might retort, like the three monkeys of the proverb, that ignorance is also bliss and silence, easeful tranquility.

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