BA Visual Culture students Imre Bitirim, Ruby Cumiskey, Simona Moccetti and Samantha Williams announce their new exhibition, now on display at St Peters House Library at the University of Brighton
HIV Positivity: Work of those Affected is an exhibition curated to inform and celebrate science, society and the people who have fought this horrific disease. On display there are artworks by two artists who have suffered and sadly passed away due to AIDS related illnesses, Mark Leslie and David Robilliard, as well as more pieces from the St Peters House Library Archives. As this is a powerfully emotive subject, the curators have done everything in their power to make this exhibition accessible for all and have appropriate trigger warnings when necessary.
From December 13 2022 students and staff members of Brighton University will be able to visit St Peters House Library, located on Richmond Place, for an intimate exhibition on the HIV and AIDS epidemic. This exhibition has been set up and organised by four second-year students from the Visual Culture course, Simona Moccetti, Imre Bitirim, Samantha Williams and Ruby Cumiskey.
“We felt it important to give back to this cause by raising money for World AIDS Day. To do this we have placed a charity box at Pavilion Parade and have linked relevant sites where people can donate money,” says curator Ruby Cumiskey.
HIV is still a major health issue globally, and it is thought that 38.4 million people are still living with HIV today. But thanks to science, people can live a healthy life with the correct medication, and with experimental drugs and through extensive research, five people have now been cured of HIV. But this wouldn’t be possible without charitable donations.
“Making our display inclusive and accessible was one of our main goals and we worked hard to make this possible.” Simona Moccetti, curator.
The chosen facility to display the exhibition is St Peters House Library, because it is wheelchair friendly, and has a wider range of people passing through. Within the display are QR codes, with instructions on how to use a QR code, the web address for those unable to use QR codes, and a leaflet if the person does not have a phone or access to the internet.
“These artists you see here [in the exhibit] maintained colour in their lives, although an incurable disease attempted to deprived them of such. Therefore, we felt it necessary to have the vitrine visually light and colourful, although the subject matter may be distressing. We wanted to pay homage to these artists the same way they explored their battle.” Imre Bitirim, curator.
A Tumblr page has been created to accompany the exhibition. One of the QR codes on the display will lead the viewer to the page, where they will find more photos and information of the items, film, TV and documentary recommendations that include stories and information on HIV and AIDS. On the site there are also links to pages where people can donate money to relevant causes. There is also a section where the public can post questions and comments either about the display or about personal experiences they’ve gone through.
“We have selected multiple objects from the St Peters House Library archives, as these objects contain personal experiences whist living with HIV/AIDS.” Samantha Williams, curator.
The items that have been carefully chosen to go into this exhibition include a poster from 1991 that shows many different variations of the red ribbon, which is a symbol of support and solidarity for people who suffer with HIV and/or AIDS. There will be a book with personal photographs from an artist called Mark Leslie, who contracted AIDS and recorded his body going through the painful changes with photography. A book and CD by artist and poet David Robilliard, sadly another artist who suffered from the virus and unfortunately passed away, is also included. There will be an extra QR code linked to Robilliad’s spoken poetry in the display. And finally, a modern comic book about a normal person living with HIV and taking the PREP pill, is included. This comic book is informative as well as enjoyable to read and look at.
This exhibition aims to be a celebration of people, society and science and not a deep dive into the virus itself. It hopes to be educational, enlightening and sentimental as it has affected so many human beings in the past as well as the present. It is not a topic to be forgotten.