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EVERY MOMENT COUNTS–AIDS AND ITS FEELINGS

Taking its title from a series of color prints by photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955–1989), the exhibition Every Moment Counts–AIDS and its Feelings, at the Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Norway, presents works from 1982 until today, including several new productions, which focus on queer culture and asses the contribution of the arts to periods of intense social and political crisis.

The exhibition shows a comprehensive range of «emotional qualities» and presents a mixture of aesthetic research, political activism, personal experiences and theoretical analysis. The exhibited works manifest how artists have responded to the AIDS pandemic and are presented with themes that include love and death, hope and resignation in addition to intimacy and body. The exhibition also deals with rage and desire, care and improvement, spirituality and protection, grief and memory, vulnerability and power, sex, politics and activism.

Fin Serck-Hanssen, Theme AIDS, 1993. © Fin Serck-Hanssen / BONO, Oslo, 2022⁠. Installation photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen / Henie Onstad Kunstsenter
Installation view “Every Moment Counts—AIDS and its Feelings”, 2022. Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen / Henie Onstad Kunstsenter
General Idea, One Month of AZT Ed. 2/2, 1991, Ringier Collection, Switzerland
Installation view “Every Moment Counts—AIDS and its Feelings”, 2022. Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen / Henie Onstad Kunstsenter
Keith Haring. Installation view “Every Moment Counts—AIDS and its Feelings”, 2022. Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen / Henie Onstad Kunstsenter
Keith Haring. Installation view “Every Moment Counts—AIDS and its Feelings”, 2022. Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen / Henie Onstad Kunstsenter

Including works by Feliciano Centurión, Elmgreen & Dragset, Pepe Espaliú, General Idea, Nan Goldin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Barbara Hammer, Keith Haring, Hudinilson Jr., Peter Hujar, Zoe Leonard, Robert Mapplethorpe, Liliana Maresca, and David Wojnarowicz, among many others, Every Moment Counts—AIDS and its Feelings captures the powerful sense of urgency that artists experienced in response to the tragedy of AIDS, but more than anything else, the poetics of life and its feelings expressed by their works. As we grapple with another epidemic today, many of the issues presented in the works have the potential to add new layers of meaning.

As a backdrop to the exhibition, the year 2022 is significant. It marks fifty years since the decriminalization of same-sex relationships in Norway when paragraph 213 in the Norwegian Penal Code was lifted. This has led several Norwegian art institutions to address relevant issues as part of a national Queer Culture Year.

Limited to sexual conduct between men, the change in legislation not only contributed to legitimizing sexual difference, but also had cultural, social and political repercussions. The repeal of paragraph 213 preceded the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 1980s. Granting juridical recognition to the widest spectrum of the Norwegian population abated the stigmatization of so-called “risk groups” and encouraged more inclusive prevention education programs in the 1990s.

Liliana Maresca, Imagen pública – Altas esferas, 1993. Reprinted with permission from Rolf Art Gallery, Buenos Aires, Argentina / Photo: Marcos López
David Wojnarowicz and Marion Scemama, «When I Put My Hands on Your Body», 1989, video, 4:09 min. Reprinted with permission of the Estate of David Wojnarowicz, Marion Scemama and P · P · O · W, New York
Zoe Leonard and Catherine (Saalfield) Gund, Keep Your Laws Off My Body, 1989, Super-8, b / w film, 13 min.

Every Moment Counts—AIDS and its Feelings embrace the artists’ powerful expression that something is urgent and that action is important. The works on view were created both in response to the AIDS tragedy, but perhaps more than anything else, as an expression of life’s poetry and its many emotions.

“We want to live in a society that does not discriminate against minorities through social norms. The exhibition is based on Henie Onstad’s historical exhibition Theme: AIDS from 1993. It shows how several artists have protested and celebrated life in response to how the AIDS pandemic contributed to neglect, stigma and shame”, says Ana Maria Bresciani, senior curator at Henie Onstad Kunstsenter. The exhibition is co-curated by Tommaso Speretta, who has been invited due to his many years of research focusing on how HIV and AIDS have been presented in art.

“The exhibition’s artworks stand out in terms of how they contribute to giving new stories about the traditional treatment of AIDS. By showing polyphonic narratives about AIDS, they can challenge a consensus-oriented understanding of the pandemic. Instead of confirming the historical narratives of AIDS, the exhibition aims to push the boundaries of the artistic representation of AIDS. The exhibition shows how the artists in different ways have used the personal and political, the theoretical and practical, politics and mass media in addition to culture and society as a starting point for their intimate experiences with the pandemic and the value crises it created”, says Speretta.

Installation view “Every Moment Counts—AIDS and its Feelings”, 2022. Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen / Henie Onstad Kunstsenter
Installation view “Every Moment Counts—AIDS and its Feelings”, 2022. Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen / Henie Onstad Kunstsenter
Installation view “Every Moment Counts—AIDS and its Feelings”, 2022. Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen / Henie Onstad Kunstsenter

With this in mind, the two curators have wanted to recreate the overwhelming feeling many have experienced in the face of the massive material that was created in response to the AIDS crisis.

Today, information and knowledge about the disease is more widespread, and medical treatment has improved the everyday lives of many people living with HIV and AIDS. Yet there is still no cure. Dealing with the current pandemic shows that treating a disease is just as important as prioritizing focus and resources. To emphasize this point, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, in collaboration with Clear Channel, presents a new work by the artists Elmgreen & Dragset. Titled Aids is Good, Business for Some (2011-2022), the work will be presented on 736 digital platforms throughout Norway from the 7th to the 21st of February.

During the opening weekend of the exhibition, artist Paul Maheke performed an adapted version of Taboo Durag (2021), a solo dance that reflects the unstable boundary between vulnerability and resilience.

Elmgreen & Dragset, Aids is Good, Business for Some (2011-2022). Installation view “Every Moment Counts—AIDS and its Feelings”, 2022. Photo: Øystein Thorvaldsen / Henie Onstad Kunstsenter

EVERY MOMENT COUNTS–AIDS AND ITS FEELINGS

Artists in the exhibition: Soufiane Ababri, Patrick Angus, David Armstrong, Gretchen Bender, Barton Lidice Beneš, Ross Bleckner, Tessa Boffin, Andrea Bowers, Nancy Brooks Brody, Nancy Burson (with Kunio Nagashima), Feliciano Centurión, Elmgreen & Dragset, Pepe Espaliú, Rotimi Fani- Kayode, Rafael França, Gang, General Idea, Nan Goldin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Gran Fury, Catherine Gund, Sunil Gupta, Barbara Hammer, Keith Haring, Richard Hawkins, Romuald Hazoumé, Hudinilson Jr., Peter Hujar, Lars Laumann, Matts Leiderstam, Zoe Leonard, Paul Maheke, Robert Mapplethorpe, Liliana Maresca, Bjarne Melgaard, Donald Moffett, Mark Morrisroe, Cookie Muller / Vittorio Scarpati, Piotr Nathan, Bart Julius Peters, Jack Pierson, Karol Radziszewski, Hunter Reynolds, Marion Scemama, Fin Ser -Hanssen, Kerstin Schroedinger and Oliver Husain, Sim Simaro, Manuel Solano, Chrysanne Stathacos, Hugh Steers, Maître Syms, Tseng Kwong Chi, Zephania Tshuma, Edilson de Carvalho Viriato, David Wojnarowicz and Martin Wong.

Curators: Ana María Bresciani and Tommaso Speretta.

Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Sonja Henies vei 31, 1311 Høvikodden, Norway

18.02 — 22.05.2022

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