By Martin Belk
Dear Gothamists: Did you see the events go down last Friday in Glasgow, the heart of the Scottish Independence movement? 1000 citizens halted a xenophobic dawn raid by Her Majesty the Queen’s Right Wing government on two asylum seekers. Hands in pockets, they peacefully crowded around the mini-bus, even laid under it. As they chanted “These are our neighbours, let them go!—You messed with the wrong city!” I was transported to the old ActUP days. Gets the blood pumpin’.
After a long, eight hour standoff, the men and women officers of BloJo & Queenie’s immigration force were forced to stand down and release the two men they were trying to smuggle onto a likely illegal flight out of the country. Poetically, the Glasgow action occurred simultaneously with the newly-elected Scottish National Party pro-independence majority being sworn into Scottish Parliament. Folks: Big things start in small places. Scotland gave birth to The Enlightenment, the television, telephone and Dolly the first cloned sheep. Watch their space.
Glasgow inspires me: we need a new cause. A return to the guerrilla creative. For my Generation-X, AIDS gave us a rallying point—our very own bus to throw ourselves under. Formidable creative talent emerged—Episalla, Haring, Jarman, Wojnarowicz to name a scant-few; alongside legions who sewed 48,000 panels of the AIDS quilt. Our collective activism valiantly brought a treatment to halt the mass death (COVID highlights the type of struggle). Now, you next-generationists have the opportunity to pick up right where it was left, and rock the system to its roots: demand a CURE FOR AIDS.
In this fake-news age of “it’s just like diabetes”, this is a radical act. When they make the cure, does anyone really think Big Pharma is going to sit by quietly and lose all the revenue from AIDS cocktails to Prep?
This is where guerrilla creativity comes in. We need new art. The recent decade of tepid AIDS-tragedy films and cheap, appropriated all-day trauma-porn plays are done. Russel T Davies It’s a Sin finally got it right & said all that’s possibly left to say. Like back in the day, in an excruciating search for survivor-humor: Friend 1 to Friend 2 (who lost a lover) “How’s Larry?”; Friend 2: “Still Dead”—indeed. Time to move on. How?
Well, any stooge can sit behind a keyboard and ‘cancel’, and make Zuckerberg even richer. I keep hearing how everyone now is so ‘talented’ and ‘iconic’—OK, take the phrase CURE AIDS NOW and create. Paint, sing, flashmob, gather, discuss, debate—but never, ever cancel—all comers are welcome.
Take a page from Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball and their original Dada Anti-war: WWI playbook. Or Augusto Boal’s, Theatre of the Oppressed 1970s liberation from military coups in Brazil. Become untouchable. Go underground. Use 1960s ‘Happenings’ which just happen, then disappear. Happenings aren’t social media, nor anything like a protest. Happenings frustrate authorities.
Happenings exchange ideas, hand to hand, word of mouth. They are art. They’re fun. They are: you, me, we, us. And not just for urbanites: anyone, anywhere, can create a happening. RuPaul’s latest winners are from aforementioned Glasgow and Conway, Arkansas. Whole lotta’ life down by the ‘factray’.
So over to you. Come together you princes, princesses and prince-x’s—whatever you like to call yourselves—of the new day: deliver a cure, and watch the establishment freak. We’re the generation that had to learn how to die. You are the generation that can find a new way to live.
Silence (still) = Death.
Martin Belk is an author/playwright, a former producer of Squeezebox! NYC, and is currently hiding under a PhD research project in theatre. martinbelk.com. Join the Research Foundation to Cure AIDS—RFTCA.org