He was also in my affinity group. The cable news cycle had just started, literally within minutes after ACT UP. An important new book by Avram Finklestein. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: But that isn't actually what happened. And so they had selected this as the thing that we were going to deal with, and in the conversation we started to talk about the body, which, of course, when it comes to reproductive justice as it did with mass incarceration, HIV, like so many other things, it has to do with our public ideas about the body and who owns it and who gets to say what is right for the individual. So we thought it was a great opportunity to sort of—here was a, in the same way that we were upping the ante with Annie Leibowitz and Barbara Kruger, we were upping the ante with this socially conscious apparel company, who had staked a claim in the question of a utopian world, in which race and gender and religion no longer mattered. CYNTHIA CARR: Yeah. And I had instruction and I learned to paint and to sculpt. And it stuck with me in the same way that I wrote deafening is—silence is deafening. It was—but Gran Fury didn't actually become Gran Fury until—it was still an open committee within ACT UP when it first formed. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: I do, but it's very funny about that, Cynthia. That's the piece that's missing. I felt like in the midst of this crisis where people's lives were on the line, once you create the idea that something is being done about it and cultural production does that, we were—we were already being, as we were making it, extolled as these, you know, this voice of resistance. None of this, like, one at a time. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: I was born in 1952. People's lives were at stake. CYNTHIA CARR: Yeah. So we're talking about mixed-race, mixed-class, mixed-gender, mixed-sexuality audiences in a public library, and intergenerational audiences, which is—in a way, replicates the streets of New York, but in another way it doesn't. But that business never really got off the ground and he didn't make very much money. Yeah, the Times—just because I was very involved in covering the culture war at that same period they did a terrible job of covering that as well, CYNTHIA CARR: It was—so that working for a weekly, I was actually able to break news, even—they should have beaten me [laughs]. ", And I should say that the "gays and lesbians are not expendable," are the second line. One was a lenticular print, which is a—it's like a three-dimensional image, if you aren't familiar with that technical word where, literally, if you move the postcard in your hand, or you walk by the poster, it changes from one image to the other. And we did in—logistic checks to find out when the trucks came to replace yesterday's papers with todays. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So the entire project wouldn't have been more than a couple of hundred dollars. CYNTHIA CARR: Right. So it—and this really was the last Gran Fury piece. On L.A. Law. And I just happened to be on a street corner when this cable car goes by with this poster on it. T here are defining moments in our life that divide it into a before and an after, and, in the process, help shape our journey through life. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Because we were mentioning pharmaceutical greed in the project. There were quite a few people, in ACT UP, who were there. There were ball game references. Todd left to make his first movie, I think is why he left. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And men—many men, all the men in my affinity group, were involved in clinic defense with the women in ACT UP who were doing it. By small I should say it's like, probably 25 point font, but it's not as big as the rest of the poster. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: It would never be more than 15 people at a meeting. ", AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: "Without the—you know, speaking to the contentions, and since you can't do that, I'm sorry I can't write about it.". A fair amount of it, in fact. And we didn't like it. CYNTHIA CARR: For someone interviewing you, it's great. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: —my joining Gran Fury —as it was—had reconstituted itself as a collective. Like, she drew blood at the kitchen table and, you know, and ran our bloods at the lab. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So, I think it's important to understand that it—during the moment of the making of the window, but also that, within that first year or so, Gran Fury was not a separate collective or—it came to be thought of as an affinity group and then later as a collective. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And, first, it says, "This political scandal must be investigated." CYNTHIA CARR: Was that the one you did with then about the rainbow flag? He said, "Do you want to help?" There were affinity groups. It was the beginning of Gran Fury beginning to think of itself as not a committee within ACT UP, but an independent group of activists working and wanting to find their own voice. CYNTHIA CARR: Yeah, uh-huh [Affirmative]. CYNTHIA CARR: And this is the work called Workers 1 & 5. CYNTHIA CARR: Yeah. That he came up with the name? AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: I must have been 4 to 6 years old, somewhere in there. CYNTHIA CARR: For sure. But we didn't—That project didn't happen until the following year, but it was based on Read My Lips. [Laughs.]. and everyone was hell-bent on it. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: I have—I have the typesetting bill. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So it was March—it was the date of—published the date of the demonstration in '89. They were all grassroots activists doing state-by-state initiatives. My mom and dad met at an International Worker's Order Summer Camp in Lumberville, Pennsylvania, which is where she was right in-between where she was from and he was from. ''The medical fact of AIDS is made more critical by the hatred of drug addicts, gays, and lesbians, women, people of color, and the poor. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: It was about AIDS activism. For Tinworks Art 2020, Avram Finkelstein has created a series of eight hanging pieces that integrate the language of the graphic image with that of the handmade. I only know what Patrick told me about it. Between March and November—this very short period of time, not only had people responded to the pink triangle and not had an issue with it—the same issues that—reservations we had. That's how they met. Around this time—no, maybe later. They couldn't give us anything to give him. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And a friend of mine gave me Jill Posener's book Spray It Loud, which was about advertising, and interventions into advertising spaces in the U.K. by women activists. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And, as soon as I got back, which was the middle of February, that's when I joined—Gran Fury. digital, wav Transcript: 148 pages An interview with Avram Finkelstein conducted 2016 April 25-May 23, by Cynthia Carr, for the Archives of American Art's Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project, at Finkelstein's home and studio in Brooklyn, New York. And I think they even tried to pass a law in the Italian Parliament against us having access to it. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So, I think the image of same-sex couples kissing were extremely charged. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: —and decided that it was not blasphemous. So we felt like what business did we have doing that? It was bad. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: That's what it—that's theoretically what it was meant to be. Since I was a little kid I was like, "I'm going to Cooper Union." '', AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So I feel like it's—you know it is flatfooted, but it's a super great message—. Yeah, it's gestural—. We did two more projects after that. Your CV will be available. But that's what I was thinking about in my first year in college. So I had this long relationship with him. THE SHED INTERVIEW The Shed. And look how brilliant it was." CYNTHIA CARR: Now, that's a whole other crime in itself in my opinion. They didn't ask any questions about it. CYNTHIA CARR: Because, clearly, something had to happen. So with my boyfriend at the time, we were going to drive from San Francisco down to LA. That's if you even had access to it or knew about it. And they could basically look at what we were doing and saying, "Oh, thank God something's being done." AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: It wasn't. We were all going to bring in images. We're talking about a million people on the sidelines of New York; it's like shooting fish in a barrel. I feel like a lot of, you know, the ways in which ideas work in an image culture and, you know, dominant narratives work and institutional power works is predicated on our remaining Balkanized and not participating. And in fact, the image that you're looking at is reconstructed. I think in a way it's a Rosetta stone— only it, you know, it talked about the future in a way, rather than the past. And I realize that everything about who I am and how I speak about this is, informed by this—possible fantasy of mine, a heroic fantasy. Miss You," was the name of it. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: I didn't really get to know him that well. And it was impossible to meet deadlines and, you know, be assured of an outcome—with a fluid membership. He was this kind of Southern dandy and very not like the people that I knew. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: There was a people living with AIDS—at the time we called it People With AIDS Issues Day. And so we came up with this idea, which we thought was very mild, actually. AF: He called himself a standup tragedian. We had no choice but to get involved in the drug approval process. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So I think it's—I think when you look at this work, you have to think of it in those terms. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And, again, the compacted history is that Gran Fury designed Silence = Death. And she has her hand cupped in her hand. I was on a panel with Robert Vazquez-Pacheco from Gran Fury, and … AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So, that was that poster. And he got such a kick out of it—. But they would frequently be 15 different people. And Tabboo! AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And everyone insisted that we should. Chuck Ortleb thought it was a good idea—can't remember if I went through Mike who I didn't know, so I don't know how I would've gone through him, but he agreed to interview me anonymously—as an anonymous collective, and everyone else is like, Lou Moletta was like, "Well, who are you? Genocide of all non-white, non-male, non-heterosexuals?" AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: I'm doing one with this weekend with the Bronx Museum, with Visual AIDS and the Bronx Museum, and the blogger Mark S. King who's an HIV-positive man—person living with HIV who has a blog called My Fabulous Disease, and I actually met him at the Grinnell conference. And my affinity group became my closest friends. Like, what does it mean to be in this world that doesn't have a history of activism? It was very, very uncommon. This was the first poster we made when half of the collective decided—we had a series of conversations about our dissolution. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Yes, it was in Grinnell, Iowa. When I consider—. Now the other part of your childhood is the political side? AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Yeah. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: I think looking from a grassroots organizing perspective, they were decidedly different. CYNTHIA CARR: But there was something—before we discuss the—like the Flash Collectives and the other—the drawings. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: But not all of them. ", AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So I—my mother died just before the show, so I made a head scarf with motifs that related to my mother's career as a biochemist —and the date of The Daily Worker. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And, in fact, we did have a brief conversation about whether we should remove the—they're sailors. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And he had PCP again. And left Silence = Death. Even if you get them, you know—I think that Truvada should be free and given out at public drinking fountains. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: There's a large erect penis. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: But it wasn't until AIDS that my politics really became my own. CYNTHIA CARR: Right. We have a fantasy about mediating HIV/AIDS only in terms of viral suppression, but the AIDS crisis was not caused by the virus; it was caused by social circumstances. Okay. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: No, the entire collective. I did relent on this one too. It was about safe sex. I mean they were—there were other things that were happening. We assembled the collective and my question to them was "okay, we're able to go into the New Museum and participate in the Draftsmen's Congress, but what does that mean? What does UNODC stand for? AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And they may have the original source on the website. Avram Finkelstein talks about the roots of his activism and his new projects, individual & collaborative Text & Photos by Alina Oswald. All we knew was that it was going to be in New York Public Library locations and it was going to be an audience that was incredibly diverse. CYNTHIA CARR: Okay. And it was called Fuck Laws. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Within the weeks that we were working on this poster, he formed the Presidential Commission on AIDS—. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: It was, but Don Moffett was very coy about it. In that regard, I guess you could say it's less direct or less didactic than other types of political gestures. CYNTHIA CARR: They also didn't allow women to enter until—I can't—it was during my period living here in New York, I think. And the first two questions are so provocative, "Do you resent people with AIDS?" And it was so cold, that the wheat paste froze before it had adhered to the wall. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: —were German and some of them were English. And the Venice Biennale was the first one that there was a major kerfuffle about, and I was at the center of it. So, I thought, why don't we do a vote poster and take the exact opposite—you know, a much more insider's set of responses? This was way before he became a photographer. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: But in looking back on it, I realize it was actually a fairly hostile thing to say. No." The other one worked at the NSA. Gentrification and safe spaces, all of these things relate to displacement, and guess what? CYNTHIA CARR: That's good. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: We were—we were actually proposing a secondary research institute that would not be about—that would be about pathogenesis only, that would only research pathogenesis and a cure, and not—and be separate from NIAID. But I think there's a huge amount of meaning to poetic gestures. So, all of these things—it's this one that was on the T-shirt, right? AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So, it was the indelibility of their own quotes was what—and the name of the installation was, Let the Record Show. I’m a “red diaper baby.” Both of my folks were members of the American Communist Party – they actually met an an International Workers’ Order summer camp in rural … AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: It's not like a bridge that you paint it and then it's painted. We began to talk about it. In 1986, Avram Finkelstein was co-founder of the group Silence=Death Project, which created the “Silence=Death” anti-AIDS logo to combat institutional silence surrounding homophobia and HIV/AIDS, later donated to ACT UP. A later project with the Helix Queer Performance Network (discussed below) was a sticker to hand out at the Gay Pride parade, a sticker that re-imagined the rainbow flag, adding content and context to that familiar image.—CC]. You know, Loring and I disagree with this. But those two came out of a related set of conversations. One is the—it says, "Center for Disease Control," as opposed to "Centers." Remember we did not know ACT UP was about to form. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So it did—it was wheatpasted in New York. CYNTHIA CARR: Right. CYNTHIA CARR: Right. There's your audience.". And we thought it would be great to sort of trick people into thinking it was an ad for a vacation. Yeah. So I did portraits of all of these transvestites, but as functional objects in the classical Zen pottery traditions, and was glazing my ceramics with white opalescent lipstick. It's heavily mediated. He began by protesting the Vietnam War in the 1960s, […] AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So, I knew that it was going to be a significant moment because it was ACT UP's first action in DC. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So, then there's a concentration camp float. So even though we preferred the idea of medical apartheid, we realized that we wanted to talk about the lack of healthcare in America. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: No, that was a different Helix project that—this was—the one I just described was for the Hemispheric Institute which is part of Helix. CYNTHIA CARR: Right. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: You know, he came to meetings and we talked about it and we said we were unhappy about this and he said, "You don't have to censor it. So every—on that corridor of power, and in places where people mailed things and got money, there was a sticker, so I feel like that that was an essential part of the ubiquity that was created. CYNTHIA CARR: I see. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, no that all happened and I sort of, you know, since our collective then became folded into ACT UP and I was sort of—I proposed the buttons and there was very tremendous resistance to it, and I said, "I'll pay for them.". She did all the ACT UP T-shirts. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And the people that I mentioned the poster to said, "Well, you want to do what? AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And that was the end of it. Mm-hmm. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: I have some early ACT UP contact sheets. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: So this work was about—what would it be like if we lived in a world where that was so much a part of it that it would be a pattern on your dress—, AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: —that it would be—your chair would be covered with it? And he said, "Well, we should really spell those out." [Affirmative.] I think that the strategies of, you know, image and text and, you know, exposition, more granular ideas, comes out of Silence = Death and Gran Fury. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: Sure, it's Avram Finkelstein. AVRAM FINKELSTEIN: And almost everything I was doing was centered there. And so all of the sculptural ceramicists were right through the doorway, and I got to know them and then I became—I switched to sculpture. The sort of coded way group came together, or just developed the antibody test that. Folks, he spiked a fever in the group follows: oral history transcript is the FDA? the of... Our decision, is that enough. 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