In his rarely-seen film “No President” (1967-1970), Jack Smith weaves together appropriated footage from a Sumatra travelogue, scenes from musicals, and a documentary on Republican Wendell Willkie with his own shots of heavily-costumed characters in an irreverent critique of the 1968 election. Smith, an American filmmaker and underground cinema pioneer, is documented in the Visual AIDS Archive and Registry, the largest database of works by HIV/AIDS-positive artists; the 45-minute video, his last feature film, is now viewable in its entirety on Visual AIDS’s new online platform.
Today, the New York-based nonprofit known for focusing pointedly on the intersection of art and AIDS activism inaugurated its virtual initiative “Not Over,” produced with help from the curatorial team Duplex and titled as a reminder that its work is far from complete. Preserving the legacy of multi-generational artists in its community by presenting their works and performances, the platform also encourages donations to help further its crucial mission: supporting artists living with HIV and raising awareness through art.
Visual AIDS was forced to postpone this year’s VAVAVOOM awards, its annual and major fundraising event, due to the coronavirus outbreak. The organization notes that the COVID-19 crisis had made its work and history more relevant than ever, and finding alternative funding sources critical.
Rather than charging a fee or subscription, however, “Not Over” grants free, open access to works like Smith’s — available for $200 elsewhere — alongside an option to donate, with all funds bolstering Visual AIDS’s operating costs. Described as “a month-long call to action,” the platform will be updated regularly with videos by artists and performers including Christeene, Morgan Bassichis, Justin Vivian Bond, Jake Brush, Candystore, Devin N. Morris, and Pamela Sneed.
“While we are devastated to not be able to hold our in-person gala, we are thrilled that all of these wonderful artists and members of our community are stepping up to support us by allowing us to share their work online,” Esther McGowan, Visual AIDS’s executive director, told Hyperallergic.
“We are also grateful for the donations we are receiving — we know this is such a difficult time for everyone, so financial support from individuals has become even more meaningful.”