In the late 1980s and 1990s, the AIDS epidemic was rampant in the United States. Contracting the AIDS virus during this time was frightening, as individuals (particularly those who were queer) with the disease passed away within a few months of health complications. Those in the artistic community during that period were also immediately impacted by the epidemic. Until now, many of their stories have been forgotten by the public.
Famed dancer and teacher, Ishmael Houston-Jones, whose career has spanned decades, remembers that time well, and is dedicated to making sure the stories of those who passed, as well as the survivors are told. He and fellow choreographer Will Rawls will supervise an art project honoring AIDS dancers who fell victim to the virus, according to The New York Times.
Platform 2016: Lost and Found, which includes over 50 artists in 28 events, discussions, exclusive performances, and a zine project, will focus its attention on how AIDS affected a generation of dancers. The exhibit will also feature film screenings, a print catalog, and most importantly a vigil. The series will premiere at the Danspace Project.
Jones “conceived of ‘Lost and Found’ after reading a pamphlet of collected writings by the choreographer John Bernd, who died of complications of AIDS at 35 in 1988.” Bernd was described as an experimental dancer, blending his life experience with art. “Surviving Love and Death,” one of his most famed pieces, detailed his illness in 1981. Bernd began performing his own pieces in the late ’70s; he was also known to collaborate on dance and theater projects, one of them most notably being Ishmael-Houston Jones.
“How can one can relate “the pain, confusion, rage and fear” of H.I.V. and AIDS? Are current artists under the influence, knowingly or not, of choreographers like Mr. Bernd?” Houston-Jones asks in a artistic statement. Jones also hopes to connect the first generation of dancers living with the illness to those experiencing it in the present.
The program will begin with Bill T. Jones, Neil Greenberg, and Archie Burnett. Burnett is expected to teach a class on voguing and waacking.