Victims suggest innocence. And innocence, by the inexorable logic that governs all relational terms, suggests guilt. Susan Sontag (b. 1933), U.S. essayist. AIDS and Its Metaphors, ch. 1 (1989)
… performance has participated in shaping ourunderstanding and experience of AIDS……theatrical practices as instances of various cultural moments – in all their multiplicity and even contradiciton… ACTS OF INTERVENTION; Performance, Gay Culture, and AIDS by David Román (Introduction, 1998)
an excerpt from WHAT’S IT LIKE? – EXCERPT ENTITLED; Does This Giacometti Make Me Look Fat or ART IMMUNO DEFICIENCY SYNDROME – written and performed by David Bateman
I get tired of the excessive minimalism cluttering the stark white walls of the post pre-middle modern wing, so I wander away form the posing as straight, poly amorous bisexual couple with the autistic grand daughter in the black and white room and then I see them again in the Giacometti gallery
And I ask the woman if she would be so kind as to take my photo beside The Walking Man sculpture
She politely agrees to do so, and when she is finished I thank her and say,
“Does this Giacometti make me look fat?”
She smiles a quizzical smile and walks away
I wasted my best joke of the day on her.
I wanted to see how she would respond, so I said something peculiar to her to see what her reaction would be.
I can be such a rude, manipulative bastard sometimes.
But there are also times filled with great tenderness and serenity, mostly when I’m all alone.
For example, I daydream about having all of the drinking glasses in my white IKEA kitchen cupboards in perfect order.
I imagine them all standing in a row in a beautiful white cupboard.
And then I begin to imagine filling them all with water while they are still in the cupboard
And then setting up lighting in my kitchen with soft lighting on them.
And then photographing all of the gorgeous glasses
And the photo comes out this stunningly beautiful study in shades of grey and black and white
And I call the photo (pause) Whistler’s Cupboard,
and for those viewers unfamiliar with the original title of the iconic American painting Whistler’s Mother – Arrangement in grey and Black No. 1 – located in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (pause) France)
I subtitle the photograph (pause) Water! – and do a series of prints in color with a blue tint for a more (pause) ‘populist’ sensibility
And then one day I go to a gallery where my photograph is hanging
And the couples from (pause) Chicago, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Saskatchewan, Toronto are standing in front of my photograph
And they just stand there and stare at it
She is wearing a loud print skirt and a plain yellow blouse.
He is wearing a pastel sports shirt and plain brown trousers
They look like a modernist diptych tableau vivant come to life
I squint and their bodies in front of the photo begin to look like a collision between Jack Bush (slide) Peter Max (slide) Jules Olitski (slide) and a fabulous silk floral arrangement form the home décor section at Walmart
Through this haze of strained commodified modernism I hear the people begin to speak
It’s just a picture of water glasses. Anyone could have taken that. I wonder how much he got paid for letting them hang it in here.
He should have paid them. Can you buy the art in this place?
No dear, I don’t think you can. But I’m sure there are some lovely postcards in the gift shop.
We should have gone to the gift shop first, then we would have known where the good stuff was.
But we would have missed a lot of interesting things.
What good is it just hanging here all the time? It should be for sale.
Well, if you could buy it, wouldn’t you think that one of the farmer and his wife would have sold by now. It’s very famous.
I read the brochure. That’s not his wife.
That’s not the farmer and his wife. That’s his daughter.
Well I read it in the brochure.
She looks old enough to be his wife and she’s very homely. And he’s no Rock Hudson himself. Very strange shaped head, but quite life like. I don’t like it.
It’s a good painting. I still find it hard to believe Rock was gay, even though he got the AIDS. I mean, anyone can get it now, right?
[American Gothic slide} I don’t like it so much.
It captures a real sense of those two people as hard working farmers.
I don’t see why you can’t be a hard working farmer and attractive at the same time.
That’s not a nice thing to say, and if you can’t say anything nice [interrupted]
I know, I know, and then don’t say anything at all.
They look like very pleasant down to earth people
They look boring as hell. And if that is his daughter then I’m a monkey’s uncle.
Well you really don’t know much about art do you.
I know what I don’t like, and I don’t like what you like.
You liked that one of the diner.
Yes, I did. I did like that one. The people in it are quite nice looking.
You can barely see their faces.
You can see enough to tell that they’re good looking.
I heard that the guy who took that photo of the glasses died of AIDS.
Where on earth did you hear that?
When you were in that room looking at all those flowers that look like vaginas I went into the next room and two very feminine gentlemen were standing in front of it and I overhead what they were saying. I think one of them might have been crying. He kept saying how beautiful the glasses were and how the water looked so clear and pure and how it was some kind of metaphor to illness.
Well what on earth was he crying about?
Feminine men get very worked up about AIDS sometimes.
Well I get thirsty looking at that photograph. It makes me thirsty. It certainly doesn’t make me cry, and if he died of AIDS, that photographer, well, it was his own damn fault…