Going Viral is the name of the first exhibition cycle after my diagnosis. It explores the violent changes that occurred after my diagnosis; reflecting on the initial emotional and personal challenges spanning over the first two years after my infection. By using abstracted photography and installations, I engage the viewer in showing what an HIV infection feels like; What goes on in the mind, how does one perceive the body and how does the perception of the self change? From feeling poisonous, and being plagued by self-doubt and self-loathing, to reflecting on my own behaviour in the past, burdened by regret.
By splitting up the themes into chapters, I try to draw the audience into the contradictions I had to challenge.
Venomous. Dirty. Stained. Tainted.
Blood always carries a deep intimacy. I was infected by infected blood – and carry this new entity inside of my veins. My blood has gained a new significance. Ever since my infection, I carry a duality inside of me. My intimacy has been invaded by not only a foreign organism, but also a chemically produced drug. A triangular balance that gives me life and creativity. My blood has a heightened meaning ever since my diagnosis. Whether it’s the regular checkups I have to take, the “detection limit” or the initial feeling of feeling poisonous.
Medication and the Everyday
The way the virus had spread in my body, I would have most likely acquired an AIDS related illness in 2019 and died. I have passed my expiry date. One pill a day kept this fate from me. Not only am I healthy, I am non-infectious and have a stable immune system. And yet my life is dependent on medicine. Since I have to take one pill every day, I am reminded of my virus every day. Like a consecrated wafer I take this pill every day to pay for my alleged sins. Next to my medication, everyday objects have suddenly a heightened meaning. My alarm clock has turned into an everyday reminder to save my life. My pill box carries my life saving medication.
Hate. Denial. Disgust – Love, forgiveness, gratefulness.
A large number of contradictions accompany my HIV diagnosis. Reflecting over the past, the present and the possible future are in constant flow – dark and depressive emotions mirror the exuberant highs in constant challenge.
Who was I as a “Negative”? Who am I now as a “Positive”?
The image of myself has to be adjusted and redefined. Self-reflection is a steady process. Using negative and positive elements of analog photography, I depict the scathing contradictions the diagnosis has confronted me with. In an imprisonment of the mind, my restlessness is a constant.
The moment of confession haunts me. Every time I meet a new woman, the mind starts spinning. When do I tell her about my status? When is the right moment? These constant questions, as well as the fear of being infectious are a steady company.
So many years after therapy, I can no longer infect any sexual partner. I can have children and I can have a normal sex life. And yet the lack of common knowledge keeps me hidden. Keeps me from speaking out. The more honest I am, the more I am rejected.
My approach to women and sexuality has changed. An invisible barrier keeps me from ease and a lighthearted approach. The desire and longing is there, yet paired with sensations of loneliness and despair. With omitting my status, am I betraying my partner?
Images of my past ease of speaking to women are only blurred memories.
Hate Comments (Installation)
I am an established writer about sexuality and HIV-related issues in Germany and Switzerland. Whenever my articles are published online or on social media, I am often confronted with hate speech in the commentary sections. Calling me immoral, a pervert or a criminal are common phrases I have gotten used to. To demonstrate this, I install Tablets (or similar) for the audience to read my articles.
Along with co-workers and friends, I have audio recordings of the “best of” hate comments, which the reader can listen to over headphones, while reading some of my work.
Repetition (Video Installation)
A video on loop. At first, the clock alarm sounds loudly to a black screen. Followed by a slow motion video of a pill being dissolved in water. Once the pill is dissolved entirely, the screen turns black. Until the alarm sounds again and the process repeats itself in an endless loop. This is done on a VHS Cassette and Video recorder – in memory of the 80ies AIDS crisis.
Do you dare? (Room Installation)
A Napkin with a drop of my dried blood is on the floor. There is bright warning tape surrounding the napkin, and signs speaking of danger.
On a plaque at the entrance of the room, there is a warning message; There is a drop of blood from an HIV-positive person present in this room. Enter at your own risk.