Principles That Define This Archive

Yes, there has been something of a radio silence for a while on Our Viral Lives. But do not despair. Behind the scenes, I’ve been thinking deeply about the book project that will be finished (as a draft) next August, and some of the new components of the archive that will be launched once my M.A. semester finished up in a few weeks. I’ve also been thinking a lot about the principles that underpin this archive. I don’t want to call what I’m publishing here a manifesto (because a manifesto almost by its nature implies fixed principles) but there are ideals that guide my work as an archivist, curator, and individual living in the moment of this HIV/AIDS crisis.

I begin creating a history of the HIV/AIDS in aporia, meaning that I create from a place of doubt, over the intentions of what this historical event actually means.

I collect stories without the desire to “know” what the HIV/AIDS crisis or to claim that the history I’m telling is definitive. There is no single issue that matters most when it comes to HIV/AIDS.

I value emotion over more tangible objects, such that individual experience becomes an essential part of making this archive.

I write to link present day concerns with the stories and experiences from the 1980s and 1990s, believing we must bridge a fundamental disconnect in these two eras.

I write seeking inclusion, not for the sake of diversity, but out of a necessity to end this epidemic in low-income, non-white and trans communities most affected.

I write always checking my own privileges and assumptions because I’m also living every day with an awareness of how HIV could or has affected my life. Not everybody has this same experience.

I understand that I cannot tell all of the stories that need to be told, but I try to create a space so that anyone can feel comfortable coming to me with their story unsolicited.

I experience shaping this archive viscerally. I laugh, I cry, I get angry, I doubt myself, because these reactions should be expected when working with difficult subject matter.

I speak honestly about my limitations, whether financial, time-wise, or based on my skill-level, because I know there’s only so many stories I can tell as a one-person team.

I believe this moment in history is the perfect moment to write about the HIV/AIDS crisis because so few stories are being written by younger LGBTQ people for younger LGBTQ to create solutions for decades to come.

I seek out inspiration not only from writing on HIV/AIDS but films, visual arts, newspapers, magazines, and performance that speak to LGBTQ issues more broadly, or to issues of racial injustice that become linked to healthcare in the United States.

I understand I may feel alone in creating this archive, but I owe its very existence to a list too long to name.

I write without a desire to find an endpoint because I believe history is always meant to be revised, interpreted as the dynamics of the epidemic change.

I write in academic, creative and journalistic styles because I do not believe any one style of writing is sufficient to capturing all of the above reference points.

Finally, I live through this archive with the principle from ACT UP that SILENCE = DEATH. My silence could have been my death. And the silence of so many others is death, personally or in their communities. I always will speak even if what I say isn’t complete in the moment it’s spoken.

These are by no means fully encompassing, but they provide a framework for discovery, creation and innovation in the future. Back in December 2014 I had vague notions of what I’m working and over the past year and some months of discovery around the world, I’ve validated some of my earlier thinking and also created new principles that speak to what I’m doing. As always, I welcome feedback and hope to engage with as many different stories as possible.

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