I Celebrate Media of Social Proximity

Curator's Note

I am against contagion and viral spread.

I recognize that physical distancing is currently necessary but deplore its effects and know how to ameliorate them with media.

I celebrate media that support care, critique, and community.

I adore how the media arts of social proximity put people, place, and purpose up front.

In times of crisis, in places of lack, in hopes of love, in search of expression, we can use our cameras, digital devices, and other artistic tools of choice to get closer.

Two streams of my media praxis focus on and fight the viral: as HIV or digital spread. I celebrate the anti-viral work of the culturally committed and close-to-home. My early and ongoing work about AIDS activist video and its archives—which reduce contagion through education about transmission and more crucially through personal and community-based empowerment derived from media making and distribution—support the local, intimate, political media output of marginal, affected communities engaged in articulated projects of self- and world-changing. My early and ongoing work about and against virality (“virality is virility”) is against digital scale, speed, and spreadability. [1]

The AIDS and viral media I need in times of crisis come from a clear place, perspective, time, and person and name who and what they are made for. When digital, I call these videos Thirdtube: “YouTube videos [that] make systematic (theoretical) and communal (political) claims grounded in personal experience … : user-generated, simple-in-form, complex-in-thought, media about the material of daily life not beholden to corporate media, culture, and products.” [2]

In commemoration of media of social proximity, I choose to share the first 5 minutes of “Homosexuals: One Child’s Point of View” (Jahana Zzaman and Juanita Mohammed, 1991, 10:40). [3]

I love how this AIDS activist video is not “about HIV,” nor about overt or medical tools for curbing contagion. Rather, it centers familial and neighborly interactions staged (for the camera) against homophobia, and features feminist of color activist artmaking that promotes the voices of children and women of color who save themselves and their community through interaction (made for video). I love how this video shows where its people live, and play; what they read; how they talk and move together; how they fight.  I love how this media, using vernacular practices and in situ settings, seeks use over spread. I love the aestheticized moments where nothing happens other than the camera marking place with beauty. I love the performances of care. I celebrate how this video ameliorates social distancing by getting us closer to a mother and child’s local activism.


[1] See http://vectors.usc.edu/projects/learningfromyoutube and fakenews-poetry.org

[3] See the entire video embedded in a scalar book which holds an innovative graduate class I am currently co-teaching with Jenn McCoy where this video, and 11 others, that center women, sexuality, people of color, and queers are used for new art and activism, now, in the time of a new virus: https://scalar.usc.edu/works/film7032/homosexuality-one-childs-point-of-....

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