Deutsches Hygiene–Museum Dresden
Lingnerplatz 1, 01069 Dresden, Germany

International Museum Fellowship of The Federal Cultural Foundation
AIDS as a Global Media Event: An intercultural comparison of posters and their imagery

1.4.2013 – 30.9.2014

The research starts at the point of transition where the HIV/AIDS epidemic is transformed into a museum artefact and a narrative. The selection of the posters is made by content more so than aesthetic considerations, especially those posters which have led to confrontation, misunderstandings and controversies between social, religious and scientific notions of morality, sexuality and intimacy.

The poster images and poster campaigns are the result of a negotiation between various stakeholders and can thus be understood as a projection of sometimes rather contradicting social, political and economic interests: Who produced the campaign? Who financed the campaign and what was the aim? How do the interests of the financiers of the respective campaign determine the content of the posters? And how much marketing and product sales effect health campaigns? Particular emphasis was put on the provenance research for the 1,447 posters from the US. In the course of the 18 months-research-project the vast majority of these posters was accurately dated and plenty of the people and institutions involved were identified.

Through the investigation of the background histories of the posters, the project offers a glimpse behind the scenes of the well-established scenarios and symbols of the AIDS epidemics and introduces Rashomonic destabilization into the official medical and cultural narratives of this phenomenon. Beyond the ubiquitous red ribbon and pink triangle, these stories have some other heroes: a family owned parka store from Anchorage, Alaska; Adinkra symbols in the Midwest; one female purse in Milwaukee; Latinas in Massachusetts; teen volunteers from Hartford, Connecticut; sisterhood from New Jersey…

This multiplicity of tales, individual mythologies and personal struggles across the USA present endangered constellation of images and stories waiting to be preserved. They help us to understand how our relationship with fundamental issues relating to xenophobia, racism and sexuality, solidarity, love and death in the last decades of the 20th century has evolved and/or changed.

Project Leader: Vladimir Čajkovac
Museologist: Sylke Schäfer
Scientific Advisory: Susanne Roeßiger
Documentation Assistance: Nicole Ritzel, Antonia Ambatielou, Claudia Gansow