“Silence = Death” (t-shirt). Image credit: Opening Ceremony
We asked artist AA Bronson to give readers an idea of the group’s significance this morning. A member General Idea, the Canadian activist artist collective that lost two of its three members to AIDS in the ’90s, Bronson was living in New York between 1986 and late 1993, the peak ACT UP Years,
If it weren’t for ACT UP, the massive swaths of death that the specter of AIDS cut through the populations of New York and other American cities, and especially their cultural communities, would have been on an even grander scale. If it weren’t for ACT UP, we now would be seeing infection rates in the US comparable to third world countries in Africa and south-east Asia today.
Bronson’s new book published by Creative Time with artist Peter Hobbs, Queer Spirits launches this Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in a 1991 interview for Bomb Magazine, Fury spoke to seminal artist Robert Gober about their work and the many obstacles they faced. “We very often are censored at the bureaucratic level,” the group told the artist. This took many forms, including losing permits for large billboard campaigns at the last minute. The phenomenon explains the allure and effectiveness of t-shirts and postering: no paper work is required for this kind of marketing to work. Given the significance of ACT UP’s history and current work, we’d like to see more of this campaign at work. As demonstrated by the New York Public Library archives, there’s plenty of material to reissue — and most of it available for purchase for print too.
Click through for those highlights, below.
“When a Government has Blood on its Hands” (t-shirt) Image credit: NYPL
Also available at the shop are the t-shirts above, but we’ve reproduced the original merch advertisement as it’s much better. The uber eager shopper can purchase Read My Lips and Silence = Death in white to own the quartet.
“When a Government Turns Its Back on People” (Final poster). Image credit: NYPL
As mentioned in the Bomb Magazine interview earlier in this post, an unnamed company revoked the use of its billboard at the last minute when saw the image and text. It would be interesting to see how well this same advertising campaign would do today.
“Men Use Condoms or Beat It” (sticker). Image credit: NYPL
“AIDS: The Artists’ Response” (poster). Image credit: NYPL
“RIOT: Stonewall, ’69,” 1989 (sticker). Image Credit: NYPL
“Gran Fury for Art Against AIDS . . . On The Road” (poster). Image credit: NYPL
“Read My Lips (Boys)” (Photocopy). Image credit: NYPL
“Wall Street Money on the street with blood?” Photo credit: NYPL
“Silence = Death” (Neon sign). Image credit: NYPL
This sign was originally produced for White Columns, the famed New York non-profit known for showcasing emerging artist work.