If you have visited the Bill Bryson Library in the last few days you may have seen the neon sculpture 36point7 on display at the Help and Information Desk.
The artwork is part of the University’s Art Collection and is on display until 13th December to mark World AIDS Day. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and takes place on 1st December every year. It is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.
We have all seen the red ribbons and wear them each year to show our support. In this mass of ribbons, Curious Arts (a Newcastle Gateshead based not-for-profit organisation developing LGBTQ arts, artists and audiences across the North East of England) and regional artist Stuart Langley felt the original AIDS Awareness ribbon had lost its distinctiveness. So Curious Arts challenged the artist to create a new one.
The result was 36point7 and it reimagines the World AIDS Day charity ribbon, increasing its distinctiveness and ensuring visibility for the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS across the world. This visibility is vital, in 2015 the World Health Organisation still recognised HIV/AIDS as a top 5 cause of death in low income economies. In 2016, when this work was produced, there were an estimated 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS globally and this is where the name of the artwork comes from.
Creativity has always been used as a response to crisis and to create conversation. There are two further artists in Durham University’s Art Collection who have created artwork around the subject of HIV/AIDS. They are Gilbert and George and Niki de Saint Phalle.
Niki de Saint Phalle’s artist book ‘You Can’t Catch it by Holding Hands’ (1987) is designed for children, dispelling myths such as how “you can’t catch it” from cats, money, combs, flowers and cutlery. Although this book is shocking to some, with it’s bright colourful childlike drawings of condoms, text that uses phases like ‘Blood’, ‘Sperm’ and Vaginal Fluids’, this book was revolutionary in the way we educate wider society.
Artist duo Gilbert and George refer to themselves as living sculptures, blurring the lines between art and life. Their work is often funny, shocking and aims to challenge society’s taboos. Gilbert and George have always openly portrayed homosexuality through their work. Their work, DEATH HOPE LIFE FEAR, 1984, in Durham’s collection, reacts to the inherant themes of human existence. These works were reproduced as a limited edition in 2012.
Find out more about the university art collection at www.dur.ac.uk/art.collection or join the Art Circle, a newsletter, keeping you up to date with exhibitions, events and information about the collection at https://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/DUArtCollection/
You Can’t Catch it by Holding Hands (1987) by Niki de Saint Phalle can be viewed upon request from the Art Collection. You can contact us via email@example.com to arrange an appointment.
LIFE and DEATH (1984) (from DEATH HOPE LIFE FEAR) by Gilbert and George can currently be viewed on the ground floor of the Palatine Centre.
You can find out more about World AIDS Day at https://www.worldaidsday.org