Series Description

 
I Wanna Be Well: Gregg Bordowitz
TRT 01:16:04 | 1993 – 2017

Fast Trip, Long Drop
Video Details
Gregg Bordowitz | 1993 | 00:54:04 | United States | English | Color | Stereo

In the spring of 1988, video-maker/activist Gregg Bordowitz tested HIV-antibody positive. He then quit drinking and taking drugs and came out to his parents as a gay man. This imaginative autobiographical documentary began as an inquiry into these events and the cultural climate surrounding them.

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Fast Trip, Long Drop
Video Details
Gregg Bordowitz | 1993 | 00:54:04 | United States | English | Color | Stereo

In the spring of 1988, video-maker/activist Gregg Bordowitz tested HIV-antibody positive. He then quit drinking and taking drugs and came out to his parents as a gay man. This imaginative autobiographical documentary began as an inquiry into these events and the cultural climate surrounding them.

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Only Idiots Smile
Video Details
Gregg Bordowitz | 2017 | 00:22:00 | United States | English | Color | Stereo | 16:9 | HD video

Gregg Bordowitz’s 2017 performance lecture Only Idiots Smile features the artist on a stool in the New Museum’s top-floor sky room, riffing on the formation of his identity.

 

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For the past three decades, Gregg Bordowitz has brought awareness to the ongoing AIDS epidemic through his overlapping roles as an artist, activist, writer, and teacher. In conjunction with I Wanna Be Well, a retrospective of Bordowitz’s work currently on view at MoMA PS1 (traveling from the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, where it originated in 2018, and the Art Institute of Chicago where it was on view in 2019), VDB TV presents two video works featured in the exhibition for online streaming: Fast Trip, Long Drop (1993) and Only Idiots Smile (2017).

The beginning of Bordowitz’s career as an artist in the mid-1980s dovetailed with his burgeoning activism as a PWA (“person with AIDS''). Exploring the political power of media—oftentimes in connection to his work with ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and other activist groups—Bordowitz became a prolific maker of videos, many of which countered negative stereotypes of people living with AIDS by offering empathetic and empowering depictions of his community of friends and fellow activists. Produced in a moment of despair, Fast Trip, Long Drop marked a tidal shift in Bordowitz’s practice: literally sick and tired, he explored anger and hopelessness, inviting autobiography and a caustic, existential humor into his work. He writes of this moment: “I was tired of pretending for the sake of others that I would survive. I became preoccupied with the burdens that sick people bear on behalf of those around them who are well. I wanted to get a handle on despair and put it out there as a political problem to be recognized and discussed.” Made fourteen years later, Only Idiots Smile—a real-time recording of a lecture-performance that occurred as part of the New Museum’s Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon—further explores questions around illness, humor, and the complexity of the artist’s intertwined identities as a queer, Jewish, American man living with HIV in the twenty-first century.

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Fast Trip, Long Drop

In the spring of 1988, video-maker/activist Gregg Bordowitz tested HIV-antibody positive. He then quit drinking and taking drugs and came out to his parents as a gay man. This imaginative autobiographical documentary began as an inquiry into these events and the cultural climate surrounding them. While writing the film, a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer and his grandparents were killed in a car accident. The cumulative impact of these events challenged his sense of identity, the way he understood his own diagnosis, and the relationships between Illness and history.

Only Idiots Smile, Gregg Bordowitz

"Gregg Bordowitz’s 2017 performance lecture Only Idiots Smile features the artist on a stool in the New Museum’s top-floor sky room, riffing on the formation of his identity. At one point, he explains his 'Jewish identity is the template thru which I understand all my other identities… how to appear to others, how we’d like to seem to others,' how others might frame themselves to be seen by us. In this way, Bordowitz gestures at what seems to be the most legible piece of this exhibition, templates for framing — each artist explores variations on the frame through presentation, history, fantasy, sculptural construction, and material."

— Rindon Johnson, Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon, Brooklyn Rail, 2017

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