From the Inside
Sue Williamson has a history of working collaboratively with people in situations of struggle, and her new series, 'From the Inside' continues this path. In this series, Williamson is working with people who are HIV positive or have full blown AIDS and brave enough to be publicly identified and speak out.
What is it that the person, often marginalised by society, would like to say to the world? Statements are chosen which Williamson then puts on to graffiti walls in public places. Unlike graffiti, which generally remains anonymous, each of these quotes is credited to the speaker by putting his/her name in bold vinyl letters and adding the words 'HIV positive' or 'AIDS patient' next to the quote. The hope is to encourage debate, empower the public, and break down the silence surrounding the subject of AIDS. At the same time, the process empowers the speaker, who feels that their voice is being heard, and the situation improved a little.
The artist's documentation of this process includes a portrait of the speaker, together with a photograph of the site of the message, - a railway underpass, for instance, a dairy wall on a busy thoroughfare, a wall under a bridge near a suburban shopping centre. The first three in the series, Busi, Adeline and Benjamin were shown on an exhibition entitled A.R.E.A. in the Reykjavik Museum of Art in Iceland in November 2000. More will be made around the Joubert Park Project in Johannesburg later this year.
Benjamin lived in Observatory, and was brought up very close to the bridge in the Gardens which bears his statement: "I'm sick of Mbeki saying HIV doesn't cause AIDS". The photograph was taken about three weeks before Benjy died in November 2000, and shows Benjy provocatively thrusting his leg out of his bed to show just how wasted he was. His statement remains on the bridge, though since then someone has attempted to paint out the name 'Mbeki' in black paint.
Eventually, there will be about eight portraits in the series.
Sue Williamson - 'From the Inside' at the Goodman Gallery, Sean O'Toole, ArtThrob Issue No. 57, May 2002