By Tequila Minsky
An experiential sound installation runs nightly at 7 p.m. during the month of December at the New York City AIDS Memorial, Greenwich Avenue and West 12th Street, in Greenwich Village.
Hear Me: Voices of the Epidemic is an original, sound-based installation in recognition of World AIDS Day, Dec. 1. The approximately 45-minute long soundtrack is composed of historical texts, poetry, speeches, music, and more that capture the history of the epidemic.
Examples include a powerful speech by Vito Russo (1946-90), a song composed by Michael Callen (1955-93), historic recordings of an ACT UP-led protest made by artist David Wojnarowicz (1954-92), and poems by Melvin Dixon (1950-92) and Kia LaBeija, who was born in 1990 at St. Vincent’s Hospital, on whose former site the Memorial sits today.
Hear Me is preceded during the day beginning at 10 a.m., by a recording featuring the names of over 2,000 New Yorkers, representing a fraction of the 100,000+ lost to AIDS, and read by What Would an HIV Doula Do?, a group of activists, caregivers, friends, long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS, and people living with HIV today.
All visitors are asked to wear a mask or face covering, maintain a 6-foot distance between each person not in the same household, and respect all other city-regulated social distancing protocols.
“In times of uncertainty, people look to the past for guidance,” says New York City AIDS Memorial Executive Director Dave Harper.
“Since our dedication on World AIDS Day in 2016, it has been the goal of the New York City AIDS Memorial to create a living and breathing tribute to the 100,000 New Yorkers lost to AIDS, and to the activists and caretakers who led the fight to end AIDS. This installation will connect the power of this place to the voices of the past, allowing visitors to learn and engage within our sacred space. “
Educational and cultural initiatives help push forward the Memorial’s mission of remembrance and creating public awareness.
Harper adds, “We look forward to welcoming the public to the Memorial during a time when cultural projects have been limited by this ongoing pandemic.”
“During this time, I think a lot of us are trying to figure out how to be together,” observes the creative consultant for Hear Me, Theodore (ted) Kerr.
“Every night, for a month, Hear Me is an open invitation for people to social distance together, a place to reflect on the past, gather in the present, and imagine and work towards a better future.”
He emphasizes how the use of AIDS history and voices from movements in this sound installation, and the Memorial becomes a place for community.
Hear Me is supported by a new, online six-episode conversation series called A Time to Listen, featuring a wide breadth of thought leaders, artists, and activists sharing current experiences and knowledge of AIDS history connected to New York City and beyond through a discussion of media, including speeches, songs, poems, plays, and oral histories. For more information and a full list of participants:www.nycaidsmemorial.org/a-time-to-listen or: www.atimetolisten.org