Avram Finkelstein 2016 Artist in Residence


Avram Finkelstein is an artist and writer living in Brooklyn. He is a founding member of the Silence=Death collective and the art collective Gran Fury, with which he collaborated on public art projects for The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Venice Biennale, ArtForum, MOCA LA, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, Creative Time, and The Public Art Fund. Gran Fury had its first retrospective at 80WSE in 2012, and has work in the permanent collections of The Whitney, MoMA, MOCA LA and The New Museum.

His solo work has shown at The Whitney Museum, The Cooper Hewitt Museum, Kunsthalle Wien, The Harbor Gallery, La MaMa La Galleria and The Leslie Lohman Museum, and is in the permanent collections of MoMA, The Whitney, The Metropolitan Museum, The New Museum, The Smithsonian, The Brooklyn Museum, and The Victoria and Albert Museum. He has been interviewed about art, activism and the public sphere in international publications including The New York Times, Frieze, Artforum, Bomb, and Interview, and has been invited to speak about art, AIDS activism, LGBT politics, LGBT cultural production, the American Left, and art and intellectual property by Harvard, Yale, Columbia, NYU and the Arts and Labor working group of Occupy Wall Street.

His recent workshops and lectures focus on the "Flash Collective," a new paradigm for rethinking the public sphere—an experiment in political art-making centered on the creation of a one day collective to produce a single art intervention in a public space. Finkelstein has conducted fifteen Flash Collectives for New York University, Visual AIDS, Parsons, The New School, Concordia University, The New York Public Library, The Helix Queer Performance Network, and The Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics, and has spoken about them at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Yale, The New School, and SUNY.


Research Questions / Lines of Inquiry during Hemi Residency:
On Memory and Collectivity

While I was AIR at Hemi I was researching my book, After Silence; A History of AIDS Through Its Images, and thinking about the ways memory and social history are interwoven.

As someone who has dedicated my life to remembering the dead, I’m aware that when we’re considering memorialization in our public spaces, we’re no longer talking about personal memory, or individual mourning. We’re talking about social memory, and cultural mourning. We’re talking about historiography, the way histories are constructed.

Because we’re still in the middle of the AIDS pandemic, it’s a history that can’t be written yet. So at best, it’s a saga, shaped through popular discourse into a dominant narrative that serves institutional structures, or more accurately, it’s an intricate ecosystem of power narratives. Still, it’s an integral part of how we talk about the AIDS crisis, but it’s a part of the AIDS crisis that has nothing to do with HIV. It’s now a crisis of remembering.

It is not the story of AIDS. It is its storytelling.

The saga of AIDS begs the following questions:

• Is storytelling within institutional settings a reification of power structures, or can it contribute to their dismantling?
• Do the heroic shadings of storytelling reify the nature of hegemonies?

Watch Avram's AiR Presentation (2016), "Dismantling the Dominant AIDS Narrative"

Watch a Conversation between Avram Finkelstein and Marlène Ramírez-Cancio (2016)