Alien Sex Club: Educating audiences about continuing rates of HIV transmission using art and design

Walter, J. 2016. Alien Sex Club: Educating audiences about continuing rates of HIV transmission using art and design. PhD thesis University of Westminster Architecture

TitleAlien Sex Club: Educating audiences about continuing rates of HIV transmission using art and design
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsWalter, J.
Abstract

Alien Sex Club is a practice based PhD that addresses current modes of representation of HIV in art, which grows out of the minimalist aesthetic developed during the earlier part of the AIDS crisis by artists such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Today however, it is acknowledged that HIV is an interconnected web of problems that should be represented in a holistic way. Rates of HIV transmission are increasing among gay men in the West. HIV is no longer a life threatening illness due to the availability of highly effective antiretroviral drugs. A resulting decrease in the perception of risk, leading to condom fatigue, unprotected sex and recreational drug use may be some of a number of factors that are contributing to the increase in transmissions.

Despite changes in the cultural, social and scientific context of HIV, artistic representations of the subject have remained the same as those originated before effective treatment was available. In this PhD, I use art and architecture and draw from contemporary scientific and political approaches in ways that differ from previous modes of representation, to raise new questions about HIV.

Alien Sex Club seeks to re-politicise art as an arena for addressing HIV by mobilising a range of visual and aesthetic genres in a curated installation. This take the form of a cruise maze that addresses the complexity of contemporary HIV problems in an academic context. It makes use of spatial design and a maximalist aesthetic to update the representation of HIV. It transposes knowledge about HIV from science, sociology and philosophy into a visual art practice. It uses live art in the form of hospitality and fortune telling in order to question the existing conventions of the art gallery and engage audiences to consider HIV in new ways. It uses autoethnography, a qualitative research method drawn from the social sciences to theorise the methodology of its making. The installation is used as a test site for gathering data of audience responses, which are subjected to textual analysis.

In these ways, Alien Sex Club operates as a counter discourse to the prevailing minimalist representations of HIV. The PhD generates knowledge about how to educate audiences on continuing rates of HIV transmission and extends understandings of the nature of the artist as activist.

Year2016
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Permalink - https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/item/q0w0y/alien-sex-club-educating-audiences-about-continuing-rates-of-hiv-transmission-using-art-and-design


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