34 x 22 inches
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Text at bottom reads: “©1987 THE SILENCE = DEATH PROJECT. Used by permission by ACT UP, The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, 135 West 29th St., #10, NYC 10001”
In July 1987, William Olander (1950-1989), an ACTUP member and curator of the New Museum in New York City, invited ACTUP to make an installation in “…the window by the museum entrance on Broadway”. A neon SILENCE=DEATH symbol crowned the display, with a pink triangle below. The pink triangle was appropriated from the Nazi marker for gay men imprisoned at death camps furthering the analogy between the AIDS crisis and the Holocaust. The neon piece became part of the New Museum’s permanent collection, and the SILENCE=DEATH graphic was widely disseminated through T-shirts, wheat-pastes, and other printed ephemera. The graphic was a reaction to an 1985 editorial in The New York Times written by William F. Buckley, as well as the silence by the Reagan government. Entitled “Let the Record Show” the work featured cardboard silhouettes of six public figures—televangelist Jerry Falwell, columnist William F. Buckley Jr., US Senator Jesse Helms, Cory Servaas of the Presidential AIDS Commission, an anonymous surgeon, and the Gipper, President Ronald Reagan—posited as AIDS criminals and set against a mural-sized photograph of the Nuremberg trials. Concrete slabs positioned under each figure offered evidence of their crimes, from misrepresentations of AIDS to ignoring the issue altogether as in the case of Reagan’s notorious public silence, in the form of personal quotes. One reacted, for example, to a 1986 editorial in The New York Times by notorious arch-conservative William Buckley, who proposed that all persons with AIDS “…should be tattooed in the upper forearm, to protect common-needle users, and on the buttocks, to protect the victimization of other homosexuals.”
G.E.Work by Silence=Death Collective