Day With(out) Art screenings prioritize black narratives of AIDS

The annual Day With(out) Art, organized by Visual AIDS, is held Dec. 1 to commemorate victims of HIV/AIDS and inspire positive action.
The annual Day With(out) Art, organized by Visual AIDS, is held Dec. 1 to commemorate victims of HIV/AIDS and inspire positive action.

According to the American Sexual Health Association, 50% of people will contract a sexually transmitted infection by age 25. In 2015, the Center for Disease Control reported a sharp increase in the rates of three sexually transmitted diseases — syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia — and found that people ages 15 to 24 accounted for most of these new cases. Another report from the CDC in 2015 stated that young people ages 13 to 24 accounted for 22% of new cases of HIV that year. 

Given the growing numbers of college-aged individuals affected by STIs and STDs, it seems fitting that the 28th annual Day With(out) Art would visit Duke’s campus. On Friday Dec. 1, the Nasher Museum of Art showed “ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS,” a collection of short videos by seven different artists and collaboratives. The piece, which prioritizes black narratives on HIV/AIDS, infuses the one-dimensional preexisting public discourse with artists’ personal memories. 

Visual AIDS, an organization that aims to combat the virus by encouraging dialogue and supporting HIV-positive artists, established Day With(out) Art on Dec. 1, 1989, to coincide with the World Health Organization’s World AIDS Day. The annual arts project was originally created as a sort of memorial — a day of “action and mourning in response to the AIDS crisis.” 

This year’s Day With(out) Art shed light specifically on the experiences of black communities affected by HIV/AIDS.

Of Day With(out) Art 2017, Visual AIDS says on its website: “The central context is the disproportionate impact of HIV/AIDS on the Black community. … While overall HIV transmission rates have generally declined across the nation and new preventative treatments have come into relatively widespread use, these developments and measures have had limited impact among Black communities.” 

For Visual AIDS, representation is a primary concern when speaking about HIV/AIDS. In focusing this year’s Day With(out) Art on Black communities, the organization hoped to lend a voice to a marginalized people who face infection at a higher than average rate; in 2016, 44% of new HIV cases appeared in African Americans. 

“At Visual AIDS, as with Day With(out) Art 2017, we continue to consider who is commissioned [to make art], whose voices are centered, whose concerns are raised, and more,” the Visual AIDS website continues. “We are committed to moving forward responsively, as part of our longstanding mission to utilize art to fight AIDS by provoking dialogue, supporting HIV+ artists and preserving a legacy, because AIDS is not over.” 

In a curatorial statement, Hammer Museum Assistant Curator Erin Christovale and Museum Research Fellow Vivian Crockett said, “We are asserting that these artists have been doing this work and that these histories have existed, whether or not they are recognized. ‘ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS’ is a reclamation and affirmation of what has always been here.” 

The filmmakers — Mykki Blanco, Cheryl Bunye and Ellen Spiro, Reina Gossett, Thomas Allen Harris, Kia LaBeija, Tiona Nekkia McClodden and Brontez Purnell — combine a variety of techniques in short films that then weave together into a larger narrative that melds personal stories with public discourse. 

As Visual AIDS summarizes on its website, "The commissioned projects include intimate meditations of young HIV positive protagonists; a consideration of community-based HIV/AIDS activism in the South; explorations of the legacies and contemporary resonances within AIDS archives; a poetic journey through New York exploring historical traces of queer and trans life, and more."

After its visit to the Nasher, “ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS” will show at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, as well as at other museums and facilities across the nation. 

To see select shorts from ALTERNATE ENDINGS, RADICAL BEGINNINGS and to learn more about Day With(out) Art and VisualAIDS, visit

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly listed the filmmakers featured in this year’s screenings. The Chronicle regrets the error.


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