A rare gathering of veteran members of ACT UP, filmmakers, and media theorists will dissect the history of grass-roots media coordination in America and its role in advancing AIDS activism from the 1980s until today.
The program, "Expression = Life: ACT UP, Video and the AIDS Crisis," will be held on Friday, April 18th, at 7pm at the Cantor Film Center, 36 East 8th St. on the campus of New York University. A screening of rare news and independent film footage will be the centerpiece of a panel discussion that examines the origins of media activism and the myriad opportunity for new and alternative communication strategies in a world now dominated by corporate-owned media. Panelists will revisit the early days of ACT UP activism and explain how innovative media strategies yielded coverage. They will explore how these efforts contributed to creating an alternative media network still operating today.
Panelists for the program include:
John Greyson, award-winning director of numerous films, include "Patient Zero". He currently teaches film at York University in Canada.
Jean Carlomusto, award-winning filmmaker and video artist who co-curated the interactive AIDS archive project AIDS: A Living Archive, for the Museum of the City of New York. She currently teaches filmmaking at Long Island University.
Stephen Duncombe is professor of Media Studies at New York University, the editor of Cultural Resistance Reader and Dream: Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy.
Jay Blotcher served as media coordinator for the founding chapters of ACT UP and Queer Nation and co-founded Public Impact Media Consultants, which gained mainstream coverage for progressive and grass-roots organizations.
Ben Shepard is professor of Sociology at the City University of New York, and the co-editor of From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization.
The program will be moderated by Mark Read, New York University Professor and curator, "DIY Media: Movement Perspectives on Critical Moments."
The evening program will screen excerpts of several rare pieces filmed during the height of the AIDS activist era. They include:
Transformer AIDS (1988): Bob Kinney and Paper Tiger TV perform a critical "reading" of Ronald Reagan's infamous 1987 speech to the American pharmaceutical industry, in which he finally acknowledged the AIDS crisis, six years into the epidemic.
Angry Initiatives, Defiant Strategies (1987): John Greyson produced this survey of the American gay community's response to the AIDS crisis, limned through the work of more than twenty artists and activists.
Be A DIVA (1989): Designed as a rebuke and corrective to the mainstream media's distortion of the AIDS crisis, this is the first production of DIVA TV, an ACT UP affinity group composed primarily of lesbian filmmakers, including Ellen Spiro, Catherine Gund and Jean Carlomusto.
Like A Prayer (1990): DIVA-TV's coverage of the landmark 1989 "Stop the Church" demonstration at St. Patrick's Cathedral, spearheaded by ACT UP and WHAM! (Women's Health Action and Mobilization.)