For Worlds AIDS Day on the 1st December, we are shedding a light on our resources in Archives and Special Collections, and how material on AIDS or the body and disease, can be used in your creative practice. You can find our archive catalogue on our website, and you can search for keywords such as AIDS or disease.
Tessa Boffin, undertook photography work around AIDS, in the 1980/90s, a terrifying time when the stigma of AIDS was just emerging, and the persecution of the LGBT communities in this regard was most notable, with backlash from the media. The adverts around AIDS at the time, including this advert highlight the terror around this.
Tessa Boffin co-curated an exhibition, Ecstatic Antibodies, with Sunil Gupta in 1990 which played an understanding in how image contributed to the AIDS crisis; the finished book is available on our library catalogue
Her archive shows the whole artistic journey related to her work with AIDS. of her original notes shows exactly where she got her inspiration from, relating to the persecution of LGBT communities via the media. Her carefully articulated notes document different media forms and how they portray LGBT communities, and AIDS, such as radio and television, with the name and date of the programme. After providing a summary of the media, she analyses the material to see how it can be used in her own artistic practice.
Her study notes also use religious imagery, including images of Martyrs, and her work Slings and Arrows of Outrageous Fortune: AIDS and the Body Politic, also references Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Her archive also includes reviews on Ecstatic antibodies.
We also have the archives from our previous 6 art schools, which includes student magazines, which highlight attitudes to LGBT issues, and safe sex, with one magazine with the front cover on AIDS.
So how can material on AIDS in the 1980s be used for Creative Practice today? Well one of the areas is theoretically to look at the social commentary related to this practice :-
how does the media’s voice differ from the 80s -90s? Does it? What do differing newspapers say? Why do they have that perspective?
What are the attitudes to safe sex then and now?
Is image and disease still a key area in Creative Arts? Why do you think that image and Disease works?
Look through the images related to AIDS in our archive. What significance regarding the colour? Why are there allusions to Shakespeare?
The topic of persecution
Practice based creative work has also be created in relation to AIDS work. Recently first year Fashion Promotion students created responses to Tessa Boffin’s archive, in an exhibition entitled Stolen Glances, after a book by Tessa Boffin and Jean Fraser. This was done as a homage to her, looking at her technique.
Another way of looking at this, is ‘then and now’- would these 1980s/90s images fit in today’s setting? How would you interpret them?
To find more about our AIDS archives, you can access our catalogue on our website, and search for ‘AIDS’. Alternatively you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for 1-1 tutorials. We can also advise on other AIDS collections and archives.
For further inspiration take a look at library books in our library catalogue on AIDS