Abject Horror or Beacon of Light and Hope?

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  • Title: Abject Horror or Beacon of Light and Hope?: Visual Reflections of a Pivotal Moment in the AIDS Epidemic
  • Author(s): Jodie Parys
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: New Directions in the Humanities
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies
  • Keywords: HIV/AIDS, Fernando López Lage, Alejandro Kuropatwa, Painting, Photography, Latin America, Uruguay, Argentina
  • Volume: 16
  • Issue: 2
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 2327-0055 (Print)
  • ISSN: 2327-2376 (Online)
  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.18848/2327-0055/CGP/v16i02/15-30
  • Citation: Parys, Jodie. 2018. "Abject Horror or Beacon of Light and Hope?: Visual Reflections of a Pivotal Moment in the AIDS Epidemic." The International Journal of Critical Cultural Studies 16 (2): 15-30. doi:10.18848/2327-0055/CGP/v16i02/15-30.
  • Extent: 16 pages

Abstract

This article builds upon a previous study that analyzed a collection of six paintings by Fernando López Lage (Uruguay) and focused on how this collection presented a visual representation of the HIV-positive body and the specific metaphors and taboos about the disease that were prevalent at the time the works were created (mid-1990s). In this longer article, a specific historical moment in the trajectory of the global AIDS epidemic (1996, the year that protease inhibitors and anti-retroviral therapy was introduced) is used as a point of contrast between two diametrically opposing visual representations of the virus: the six paintings by López Lage, entitled “Costuras del Corazón [Seams of the Heart]”;2 and a collection of photographs by Argentine photographer Alejandro Kuropatwa, entitled “Cóctel [Cocktail].” These two collections, produced in the pre- and post-antiretroviral eras of the AIDS epidemic, provide a glimpse into the visual symbolization of the disease in Spanish America and allow an examination of the stark contrast between how the HIV-positive body has been visually represented, raising questions about the ways in which the predominant social stigmas and metaphorical language surrounding AIDS have been translated to images, as well as the shifting perspectives regarding illness and health, hope and despair, life and death.