Series Description

Gregg Bordowitz: Part 2
TRT 01:18:29

"A Cloud in Trousers" 1914-1915
Video Details
Gregg Bordowitz | 1995 | 00:32:23 | United States | English | Color | 4:3

A 1995 retelling of a revolutionary poem by Vladimir Mayakovsky, published in 1918.

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"A Cloud in Trousers" 1914-...
Video Details
Gregg Bordowitz | 1995 | 00:32:23 | United States | English | Color | 4:3

A 1995 retelling of a revolutionary poem by Vladimir Mayakovsky, published in 1918.

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Portraits of People Living with HIV
Video Details
Gregg Bordowitz | 1993 | 00:46:06 | United States | English | Color | 4:3

A series of intimate, close-up video portraits of HIV positive men in the early 1990's.

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Gregg Bordowitz: Part 2, streaming on VDB TV June 19th-July 22nd, 2019

VDB TV and the Art Institute of Chicago are pleased to present Gregg Bordowitz: Part 2, focusing on videos by writer, artist, and activist Gregg Bordowitz, presented on the occasion of I Wanna Be Well, the first comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s thirty-year career. The second installment of this program includes Bordowitz’s Portraits of People Living with HIV (1993), "A Cloud in Trousers" 1914-1915 (1995), and The Suicide (1996). Portraits of People Living with HIV is a series of video portraits featuring interviews with Derek Link, David Barr, Mark Simpson, Robert Vazquez, Frank Moore, and Stephen de Francesco that were originally broadcast on Living with AIDS, a cable television show co-produced by Bordowitz and Jean Carlomusto at the Gay Men’s Healthcare Crisis between 1987-1993.

Like Portraits of People Living with HIV, "A Cloud in Trousers" 1914-1915 was intended to be broadcast on television, and yet the piece drew upon radically different aesthetic strategies. Instead of utilizing Bordowitz's direct interview style, the video is rooted in the history of art performed for television — including switching between multiple camera perspectives, and the use of intimate close-ups — that peaked in the early broadcast era. Recorded by cinematographer Ellen Kuras and broadcast in 1996 on the PBS series New Television, "A Cloud in Trousers" 1914-1915 features artist and writer David Rakoff performing Futurist artist Vladimir Mayakovsky’s poem A Cloud in Trousers. Written in 1914–15 and published in complete form in 1918, the poem takes its name from an encounter between the artist and a Russian imperial censor, in which the artist responded, “All right, if you want — I will be wild, if you want — I will be tender, not a man, but a cloud in trousers.”

In the feature-length work The Suicide, Bordowitz explores themes outside of the framework of AIDS activism, instead recreating Nicolai Eardman's Soviet avant-garde play from which the piece takes its name. The play follows the protagonist Semyon as he tries to unyoke himself from the enforced optimism of a bureaucratic order that prohibits any discussion of disappointment and despair following the revolution.

Gregg Bordowitz: Part 2 stands as a personal, thirty-year record of an activist artist who has lived with HIV for more than half his life. This collaboration marks the first partnership between the Art Institute of Chicago and VDB TV, and was organized by VDB and the museum’s co-curators Robyn Farrell and Solveig Nelson.

Portraits of People Living with HIV, streaming June 19th-July 22nd

"A Cloud in Trousers" 1914-1915, streaming June 19th-July 7th

The Suicide, streaming July 8th-July 22nd

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About Gregg Bordowitz: 

A Professor and Director of the Low-Residency MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Bordowitz was as an early participant in New York’s ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) in the late 1980s. In this capacity, Bordowitz co-founded several video collectives — including Testing the Limits, an advocacy group within ACT UP, and DIVA (Damn Interfering Video Activists) — that videotaped some of the movement’s earliest direct action protests and initiated works made by and for individuals who self-identified as HIV-positive. As the artist wrote in a famous 1987 essay, video had the capacity to “picture a coalition of people who will end this epidemic.” Simultaneously, Bordowitz made his own experimental videos and television broadcasts that juxtaposed performance documentation, archival footage, role play, and recordings of protest demonstrations, drawing influence from feminist conceptual art. Bordowitz’s work critiques patterns of media reporting and, in the artist’s words, creates “conjunctions and asymmetries” among his Jewish, bisexual, gay, and artistic identities through an expanded concept of portraiture as a mode of political and artistic address.

Featured titles

Gregg Bordowitz, "A Cloud in Trousers" 1914-1915

This video is staged as a reading of the great Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky's famous poem A Cloud in Trousers, written 1914-15. It was an attempt to go beyond the autobiographical mode of Fast Trip, Long Drop by appropriating the allegorical potential of another artist's work. Mayakovsky's poem is lyrical and didactic, romantic and materialist. It swings pendulously between two equally passionate commitments: political revolution and romantic love. The dynamic tension in the poem emanates from a conflict. The poet wishes for social transformation with every fiber of his being, but the revolution is a demanding lover: it requires the withdrawal from all other romantic interests. It demands fidelity.

Featuring David Rakoff as Mayakovsky.

Gregg Bordowitz, Portraits of People Living with HIV

An up-close compilation of interviews and discussions with people living with HIV in the early 1990s. 

"We have to use these forms, no matter how tired they are, in order to experiment and to develop new forms. It’s the way I feel about art and documentaries: how are we going to develop more effective means of representation ‘for us’, for the people who are affected by AIDS, unless we use the available forms? That means employing clichéd forms. What we can try to do is to alter them and make them signify for us, so that what we come up with is something radically different than what is presented to us. It’s radically different because it's ‘us’ making meaning about our situation, and not just waiting for an invitation from the culture, which someone else has always defined."

— Douglas Crimp & Gregg Bordowitz, Art and Activism in AIDS, the artists’ response, Hoyt L. Sherman Gallery, and Ohio State University, 1989