ONE WORK: PAUL CHISHOLM ON “APRIL 23 RD 1984”BY TED KERR
video still giccle print 1/3 + a/p, Paul Chisholm
On April 23 1984 Margaret Heckler, President Reagan's secretary of health and human services from March 1983 to December 1985, held a press conference with scientist Robert Gallo to announce that he had located the virus (The day before French scientists claimed they had found the virus). Earlier that day it had been announced that there were 4,177 reported AIDS cases in America and 1,807 deaths. At the press conference Heckler told a desperate public that an AIDS vaccine was 2 years away. Three decades later there is no vaccine.
Heckler's action epitomizes a problematic administration. In 2006 interview for PBS she was asked about the support her department had from President Reagan. She responded, “This was not a problem that money could solve; it was a problem that the scientist could solve.” Deferring to the medical establishment Heckler sidestepped the Reagan administration's responsibility for the crisis, something others who worked for the US government were not willing to do. In an interview about Regan’s response to AIDS, C. Everett Koop, Surgeon General from 1982 to 1989 stated, "Some people have said that it was a homophobic administration. I think that's a bad word. Homophobia has the connotation of being fearful. This wasn't fear, it was hatred."
By the time Regan did say AIDS, in 1987, 36,058 Americans had been diagnosed with AIDS and 20,849 had died. The disease had spread to 113 countries, with more than 50,000 cases. Today more than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and 33.4 million are currently living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. There is still no vaccine, no cure; AIDS is ongoing.
Below, artist Paul Chisholm discusses his connection to the infamous press conference, a moment he captured in his art work.
23 rd April 1982
Limited edition print
A debilitating fear and the panic of the unknown had finally been given a name, the virus had been discovered by scientists.
A monumental date in the AIDS crisis this day finally gave us a physical and scientific grasp of hope over a plague that had had until that point no name, no explanation and was known only through deep speculation, rumors and fear.
In my mind’s eye this moment of Heckler is an iconic turning point in the history of AIDS. With the American government’s lack of action finally we had an image of the enemy, meanwhile all around us people were simply dropping dead.
Writing this 30 years later I sit in trepidation. What will this video still conjure up in people 20 years from now?
ITS REALLY ABOUT LOVE - ALDRIN VALDEZ -ARTSLANT
Other works combine smirking irony and self-awareness with confrontational bluntness. Paul Chisholm’s makeshift crucifix, Love & H*I*V (2010), and Andrew Graham’s AIDS is God’s Curse (2009), are two of those purposely disturbing and inflammatory word-images. Like Imagevirus, they’re meant to make you feel uncomfortable with their double entendre. Chisholm’s vinyl letters on two crisscrossing pieces of plywood read “Fuck me I have… love and HIV." It’s a message that points to a complicated doubling which exists inherently in language. Fuck me, because I have love. Fuck me, too, for my circumstances. Similarly, Graham’s wordsmithry overturns Fred Phelps’s hate mongering by placing the onus on God; AIDS is His curse. Ultimately, as these artists have shown, the meaning of a word or an image comes down to the reading, to the context in which it exists.
VIRAL LOAD - BRUCE FLOWERS - CURATOR -CRITIC 2017
You are quite the subversive lad! Quite the provocateur. I was most impressed with your piece Viral Load. As a sculptor myself, I relate best to 3-D form. This is a powerful piece – odd, though, that the excellent accompanying commentary doesn’t mention black as the colour of death. This penis is in part undoubtedly a powerful a statement precisely because it uses black. The HIV crisis was called the “Plague” in my day with its obvious reference to the Black Death/Plague. Is this curator so afraid of not being politically correct he dare not reference black’s symbolic association lest it impute black men’s penises, too? Possibly. Certainly, he views the relevance of the red colour chosen for the pins on the glans as worthy of comment and that they signify ‘Danger” [i.e. HIV virus in the ejaculate] Neither does he reference that this penis is erect. The fact that only in its erect state can the penis be an HIV vector is an important feature . The tumescence is relevant. – ready for action/loaded, so to speak. Flaccid, a penis is not a threat for infection. Bruce Flowers Curator Art Critic 2017
Artist Statement December 2011
My practice is a dissemination of popular culture and queer aesthetics. At the core of my interests lie the painful emotions of human nature crossed with the whimsicality of everyday occurrences. Using found objects, utilitarian and mass produced detritus. I configure objects which speak of the zeitgeist.
Being a gay man is central to both how my works can be read and how they come into being. From the persecution of and silencing of minority voices. To the globolisation of cultures and experience. Each work stands as a questioning of our beliefs and of the very nature to which we belong.
“ I create because I have no choice, the act of creation to make something unique and thought provoking is innate within my soul.
I consume, digest, excrete and reflect on the contemporary fleeting moment, Each Art work stands as a memento of my thought process. Each piece is either a Positive and or negative reflection of its statement, Just like myself a positive human with negative thoughts, Constantly a virus in my veins, in my gut, stomach and brain, Each Artwork I create belongs on the edge of the precipice we call Earth. Neither here nor there or anywhere…. “
Excerpt from a review ” It’s really about Love” on Art slant by Aldrin Valdez
Other works combine smirking irony and self-awareness with confrontational bluntness. Paul Chisholm’s makeshift crucifix, Love & H*I*V (2010), and Andrew Graham’s AIDS is God’s Curse(2009), are two of those purposely disturbing and inflammatory word-images. Like Imagevirus, they’re meant to make you feel uncomfortable with their double entendre. Chisholm’s vinyl letters on two crisscrossing pieces of plywood read “Fuck me I have… love and HIV.” It’s a message that points to a complicated doubling which exists inherently in language. Fuck me, because I have love. Fuck me, too, for my circumstances. Similarly, Graham’s wordsmithry overturns Fred Phelps’s hate mongering by placing the onus on God; AIDS is His curse. Ultimately, as these artists have shown, the meaning of a word or an image comes down to the reading, to the context in which it exists.
Catalogue text ” Hauntingly Beautiful” 2010
The Art of Paul Chisholm is a conundrum, it is at once pleasing to the eye, but also disturbing at the same time. Many juxtaposed colours, objects and texts proliferate out of the everyday and extraordinary materials the artist utilizes in each of his works.
Touching on issues of health, life, sex, death, war, relationships, human emotions and the world as a contemporary fleeting moment, the artist seeks us to ask what is important in our lives and how we all have the power for change; even when obstacles seem insurmountable.
His sculptures are at first glance playful and childlike but with further investigation each work has serious undertones of a world struggling to deal with its own ideologies. To each statement said there is always someone who will agree or disagree just to play ones devils advocate. And the same goes for the works of this young artist each work plays against the other in a game of kiss and tell, to reveal to the viewer what is necessary and for what is to be seeped out of these mysterious and intriguing objects.
Life for humans is far from perfect one may say we are living in Hell and are far from the pure and perfect world some would like us to believe we are living…… I think the same goes for Chisholm’s art works; are we entering a fantasy land of playful fun or a more sinister laboratory of man’s making…….
Visual Aids Blog
Eli Manning Curator
Depicting viral loads and dildos, Paul Chisholm’s work is particularly interesting. In VIRAL LOAD (2010), straight pins puncture this phallus with a congregation of red pins, signaling danger, concentrated at the very tip of the cock. In this era of neoliberalism, where people are held more individually responsible for personal and public health, viral load also becomes a way to know how infectious one is; viral load becomes a (re)markable way to predict transmission rates as we see in new prevention technologies such as community viral load mapping. Now, having a viral load is not only potentially damaging to one’s own health, but also dangerous for those uninfected. Purity and Danger (2010) more pointedly remarks on the threat not only of the virus in semen, but also on positioning subjects in oppositional stances within debates on barebacking and HIV prevention. Now more than ever, one who has a viral load is marked as dangerous and criminal, at least in Canada with the 2012 Supreme Court non-disclosure ruling. L. Robert Westeen’s Criminalization Is Not A Cure (2013) reminds us that criminalizing people living with HIV is counterproductive to stopping AIDS by highlighting the continued, but revised medicalization of HIV prevention