Let’s End It - an annual student exhibition featuring works by students at Perth College UHI in honour of World AIDS Day - officially opened to the public at Perth Concert Hall for its sixth year on the 26th of November, the eve of World AIDS Day.
Running for one week from the opening night on Monday the 26th of November 2018, to Monday the 3rd of December, the inspiration behind Let’s End It is said to be the ongoing national campaign advocating to end HIV transmission, and end stigma and HIV-related discrimination.
The relationship between contemporary art and political activism is explored, posing the question – can a student exhibition in a regional contemporary art museum impact the nation-wide activism campaign?
The opening night also saw a collaboration with the Perth Film Society, who hosted a special preview screening of the film, 120 Beats Per Minute – which explores the actions of HIV/AIDS activists associated with the Paris chapter of ACT UP struggle to effect action against the structures perpetuating the AIDS epidemic.
I went along to view the exhibition – and I was left inspired and impressed by the sheer range of artworks on display across many mediums, and the immersion of the student artists within their topic. It was evident that they had taken the time to research the background to the AIDS epidemic fully, resulting in informed works that treated their subject matter with the required gravity.
While all of the works were of extremely high standard, there were some that especially stood out to me. ‘Red’ by Holly Moffat provides an arresting and enveloping visual – set in a corridor, you are confronted with hundreds of papers, each with unique red splashes of paint and ink, dangling down from the ceiling and stuck to the wall adjacent.
Playing with human psychology, Holly aimed to convey the feelings of aggression which are often directly caused by the stigma surrounding AIDS. The confrontational placement of the piece helped to put across her message in a direct manner, forcing the viewer to face up to the issue of discrimination through the physical act of taking up space.
Directly across from this is Sunil Bhandari’s photo-series, ‘Sensation’. In his monochrome series, Sunil explores the psychological impact of those diagnosed with HIV. Each image a stark snapshot: small details are captured, then magnified to convey feelings which at times are left unsaid.
As you walk upstairs, you are greeted with many screens displaying the photo-series ‘Positive Negative’, by Mare Tralla. A series of 40 striking portraits of activists from groups such as ACT UP London and STOP AIDS - amongst many others – are pictured with students from Perth College UHI. The message conveyed is one of solidarity, strength and unity.
One thing I particularly liked about this exhibition was the scope of the artworks on offer. In graphic design student Angus Doyle’s work, ‘Complexity and Complacency: HIV/AIDS in the UK in 2018’, he utilises eye-catching design to communicate facts with clarity through an infographic. One for example, reads ‘HIV/AIDS education in 1/3 of schools is not of a ‘good’ standard’. This fact embodies his intention behind the work: to emphasize that AIDS and the stigma associated with it is the responsibility of society at large to tackle, and typically has been a marginalised issue.
If it wasn’t for World Aids Day, or events similar to this, these issues would just keep going on unspoken. - Douglas Munro
Communicating facts also factors into K.V.C’s eye-catching sculpture, aptly named ‘Statistics’. Five test tubes of “blood” sit on a table in a stand, each filled to varying levels. A visual representation of the numbers of people who contracted the disease, the vials communicate information in a hands on way – participants can pick up and handle the vials, so that the work communicates what could be otherwise cold statistics in a really creative, engaging way.
To be perfectly honest, I wish I could devote time to speaking about every single artwork on display because there’s so much else to say! I left the exhibit feeling both more informed and inspired to help create change.
I also felt very lucky, because I had the chance to be shown around this exhibition by one of the students involved, Douglas Munro. “I would gladly get involved in raising awareness for social issues again”, he tells me. “I think it is important to remind people that the AIDS epidemic is still ongoing, and to highlight the misconceptions people sometimes have around this topic.
“I learned a lot about how the virus works, and different ways it can spread. It’s beneficial for not just the viewer, but also us who are doing it - it’s been a two-way street. That why I think it’s important that events like this exhibition happen. If it wasn’t for World Aids Day, or events similar to this, these issues would just keep going on unspoken. It’s better to be informed.”
Let’s End It is open until Monday, 3 December 2018 with free admission and free guided tours by the exhibiting student artists.
The exhibition is open Mon-Sat 10am-6pm (or late on performance evenings) at Threshold artspace, Perth Concert Hall where it will be invigilated by the students from 10am-4pm daily.
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