The Museum of Design Atlanta Brings Writers and Graphic Artists Together for AIDS Awareness
by Brent Calderwood
Graphic Intervention: 25 Years of International AIDS Awareness Posters 1985–2010 is the first exhibit of its kind, with over 150 posters showcasing a quarter-century of visual strategies employed by government agencies, community activists, grassroots organizations and motivated citizens to educate diverse populations about HIV and AIDS.
The show, curated by Elizabeth Resnick and Javier Cortés from the collection of James Lapides, was presented at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in September of 2010 and is currently on display at the Museum of Design Atlanta through January 1, 2012.
From New Guinea to Denmark, Venezuela to Morocco, the posters—sometimes utilitarian, often stunning—not only demonstrate the range of graphic design aesthetics across continents and decades, but also reveal a fascinating variety of approaches to disease research and eradication, world health, international relations, sexual education, social prejudices and discrimination.
In conjunction with the MODA exhibit, twelve Georgia writers were asked to compose new pieces responding and reacting to specific posters of their choosing. These poems and short essays were presented to the public on October 20, in an evening sponsored by the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival and organized by Atlanta writer and graphic designer Cleo Creech.
A&U is delighted to share some of the images and poems from Graphic Intervention and the MODA/AQLF event; some of the posters included here have rarely appeared in print since their original release, and all of the poems in this issue appear in print for the first time.
Concurrent with Graphic Intervention, MODA is also displaying panels from the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which since 1987 has been another powerful visual tool for education and social change. Selections from the more than 40,000 quilt panels will rotate monthly through January 1, 2012. Visit www.museumofdesign.org.
Brent Calderwood is A&U’s Literary Editor. Visit his Web site at www.brentcalderwood.com.
I was not their decision.
I was 2 am after a fight,
shots and margaritas,
my darkness divided
in their separate sorrows.
I was half in float, half
in swim; I willed myself
to not come together
the next morning
when my soon-to-be mother’s eyes
from my soon-to-be father’s,
this father that would never father me.
They did not even kiss
goodbye. I held back
as long as I could, fighting
not to make me.
I listened when her pelvis
shook, as she cried to her sister:
But I just don’t DO things
like this, reliving the ignited
hours, their talk and dance,
hands slipping lower, the intent
and not the intent, her spark
at the smell of his neck, his lips
not stopping at the thought
of her eventual nakedness,
the hidden positive
in the needles of their longing.
Meanwhile, the man I
will come to call Papa
was alone in their bed,
the ceiling fan
turning, his body a knot,
praying, please, baby, please,
just come home.
—Julie E. Bloemeke
(Based on a 2007 poster from Iran: “Test Your Partner before You Make the Final Decision”)
Julie E. Bloemeke is a poet and a graduate of the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared in Pebble’Lake Review, Mason’s Road and qarrtsiluni as well as in the anthology Lavanderia: A Mixed Load of Women, Wash, and Word. Her work is also forthcoming in Obama-Mentum, The List Anthology and The Southern Poetry Anthology of Georgia Poets.
I earned my golden star called
A shining black eye
Given from your hands
While confused from last night’s
I thought you understood
That I wasn’t ready
To give you that part of me
Instead you decided to spray
Paint with fist art and
Future HAART graffiti
Eyes now crimson
Believing this is love
The kind I deserved
I heard the HIV
Celebrate and settle inside me
I measured and counted
The blood I’ve lost
By the number of strokes
To an unfinished canvas
I witness you losing to
Darkness by hurting me
Breaking my heart
While giving me your HAART
To forever have and hold
Antron-Reshaud Olukayode has self-published four books, most recently Ayo: Lost and Found. He appeared on CNN’s “World AIDS Day 2008” and has used writing and spoken word to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS while mobilizing initiatives such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “I Know!” campaign and other community-based programs for youth. Olukayode has been a survivor of HIV/AIDS for eight years, thriving with the virus.
Strength Comes from Knowing
Here in America, we don’t think about you.
We have distorted your image into a postcard
from Polynesia; a tribal dancer trotted out
for tourists; a sexy souvenir snapshot. We make
musicals out of you, cast you aside into
the island of our unknown. We don’t
understand customs, rituals, feathers,
tattoos. We don’t think of some of you as sick.
We don’t know the word Takatapui. We don’t
have such a beautiful word for someone we love.
Here, our words are uglier. Here, we don’t dance.
(Based on a poster from a 1994 poster from New Zealand: “Strength Comes from Knowing”)
David-Matthew Barnes is the author of the young adult novels Mesmerized, Swimming to Chicago, and Wonderland, the suspense thriller Accidents Never Happen, and the rock ’n’ roll love story The Jetsetters. He is the author of over forty stage plays that have been performed in three languages in eight countries. His literary work has appeared in over one hundred publications.