The NYC AIDS Memorial replays voices of a past epidemic

The memorial’s new sound installation, Hear Me, featuring work from Larry Kramer and David Wojnarowicz, can be heard throughout December
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New York City AIDS Memorial, New York City, New York, USA. Studio AI Architects (2016). Edward Caruso Photography
New York City AIDS Memorial, New York City, New York, USA. Studio AI Architects (2016). Edward Caruso Photography

Walk into the New York City AIDS Memorial this month, and you’ll be taking a step back in time. This abstract canopy of white, steel triangles in Greenwich Village, close to the site of the city’s first and largest AIDS ward, was unveiled four years ago to commemorate those lost to the disease.

This December the Memorial is hosting an audio installation, enabling visitors to recall quite vividly a time when the disease was still mysterious, deadly and, for many sufferers, socially stigmatising.

Entitled Hear Me: Voices of the Epidemic, this new sound-based installation consists of a 45-minute soundtrack drawn from historical sources, such as poems, speeches, public-service broadcasts and field recordings of demonstrations.

The late artist and activist David Wojnarowicz took it upon himself to record that last inclusion, an ACT UP-led protest from June 1989, while ACT-UP’s founder, the playwright and campaigner Larry Kramer, can also be heard at other points during the installation in a recording of an eviscerating speech from 1991. Individually, these audio clips offer a stark reminder of the horror and rage that accompanied the disease in the early days. Listened to in context, they also offer us some way of judging and understanding this disease and others, in our own time.

In Memory Of

“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 connects the power of this place to the voices of the past, allowing visitors to learn and engage within our sacred space.”

To find out more about Hear Me, which is free and open to the public, go here. For more on this important new memorial, order a copy of In Memory Of; and to read the words of Larry Kramer alongside many other great orators and activists, get You Had Better Make Some Noise.


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