How We Do Illness

Tune in on October 14th at 5:00 p.m. EST for the second session of How We Do Illness, You Can Hear It in My Voice, readings, a screening, and a conversation about illness narratives.

With Theodore Kerr, Carolyn Lazard, Lana Lin, Beza Merid & What Would an HIV Doula Do? 2:00–6:30 p.m. 264 Canal Street, 3W, New York, New York

Can’t make the event? Live-stream the second session here.

How We Do Illness is a two-part symposium that considers how personal narratives shape public perceptions of sickness, and how cultural workers and institutions contribute to the ongoing response to HIV/AIDS. The title is borrowed from the writer Lisa Diedrich, who reminds us that “illness and how we do illness is political.” The symposium is part of Risk Pool, an issue that asks: how are sickness and wellness defined, and by whom? What are the effects of these definitions, these acts of naming and describing?

What Would an HIV-Informed Cultural Worker Do?
An open discussion led by Theodore Kerr of the collective What Would an HIV Doula Do?
2 p.m.–4 p.m.
Free admission, coffee and snacks provided

In recent years, galleries, museums, cinemas, and lecture halls have been important staging grounds for revisiting the early years of the AIDS crisis. High-profile retrospectives, documentaries, publications, and the like have provided invaluable opportunities to explore the activism and cultural production of the initial responses, promote cross-generational dialogue, honor the dead, and communicate vital and urgent political strategies for facing the still-present epidemic. It is worth arguing, however, that there has been a notable and recurrent lack of inclusivity with regard to who is portrayed and discussed, as well as a lack of engagement with the tactics that underrepresented individuals and communities employ in order to live, thrive, and survive.

How might cultural workers and institutions better equip themselves to meaningfully consider HIV/AIDS in exhibitions, films, texts, and performances? What Would an HIV-Informed Cultural Worker Do? will be an open, informal, discussion facilitated by Theodore Kerr of the collective What Would an HIV Doula Do? Members of the public, and cultural workers in particular, are invited to listen and to exchange ideas about how we can best reflect the intersectional legacy and lived reality of the ongoing response to HIV/AIDS.

You Can Hear It In My Voice
Readings, a screening, and a conversation about illness narratives, with Carolyn Lazard, Lana Lin, and Beza Merid
5 p.m.–6:30 p.m.
$7 suggested donation Live-stream this session here

In The Cancer Journals (1980), Audre Lorde reflects, following a surgery to remove a tumor from her breast, on illness as being at once intimate and social. “Of course, I am afraid—you can hear it in my voice—because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation and that always seems fraught with danger,” she writes. When confronted with her mortality, “priorities and omissions became strongly etched in a merciless light, and what I most regretted were my silences.” Lorde’s words still resonate today, as partisan battles over health-care reform jostle our lives, reinforcing the fact of illness as paradigmatically personal and political. To that point, stories of illness, ranging from GoFundMe testimonials to best-selling memoirs, have proliferated, sometimes with the direct effect (if not objective) of informing policy and public opinion.

In 2013, Carolyn Lazard published “How to Be a Person in the Age of Autoimmunity,” which is “equal parts a processing of the trauma of illness and an exploration of how the body is treated under the regime of capitalism.” The essay created a space within the art world for candid discourse about personal health. At You Can Hear It In My Voice, Lazard will read from an essay in progress, to be published in Risk Pool, that asks why there is so little room for belief within biomedical healthcare. Lazard will be joined by Lana Lin, author of Freud’s Jaw and Other Lost Objects: Fractured Subjectivity in the Face of Cancer (2017), which examines how cancer disrupts feelings of bodily integrity and agency. She’ll discuss and screen an excerpt of The Cancer Journals Revisited (2018), her experimental nonfiction film that reimagines Lorde’s book. Finally, Beza Merid, whose scholarship asks how various actors shape what it means to be a “responsible” patient, will speak about the role of affective appeals and illness narratives in resisting the opposition to healthcare reform. After these presentations, the participants will be joined in conversation by Risk Pool guest editor Corrine Fitzpatrick.

Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to ensure that events are accessible and comfortable, we’ll open the doors thirty minutes prior to each event and strictly limit admittance to our legal capacity. Please check Triple Canopy’s Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates, as we’ll indicate if events are sold out.

Triple Canopy’s venue is located at 264 Canal Street, 3W, near several Canal Street subway stations. Our floor is accessible by elevator (63" × 60" car, 31" door) and stairway. Due to the age and other characteristics of the building, our bathrooms are not ADA-accessible, though several such bathrooms are located nearby. If you have specific questions about access, please write at least three days before the event and we will make every effort to accommodate you.

  • Theodore Kerr is a Canadian-born, Brooklyn-based writer, artist, and organizer whose work focuses primarily on HIV/AIDS. He is a founding member of What Would an HIV Doula Do? Kerr earned his MA from Union Theological Seminary where he researched Christian Ethics and HIV. He teaches at The New School.
  • Carolyn Lazard is a Philadelphia-based artist working across video, sound, sculpture, and performance. They have screened and exhibited work at Essex Street Gallery (New York City), Anthology Film Archives (New York City), the Kitchen (New York City), the New Museum (New York City), Wexner Center for the Arts (Ohio), Camden Art Centre (UK), Kunsthal Aarhus (Germany), and the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam). They have published writing in the Brooklyn Rail and Mousse Magazine.
  • Lana Lin is an artist, filmmaker, and writer based in New York City. She is the author of Freud’s Jaw and Other Lost Objects: Fractured Subjectivity in the Face of Cancer (2017). She has made a number of films that fall into the capacious category of experimental, critical, and creative nonfiction, some of which are archived here. She collaborates on research-based multidisciplinary projects with H. Lan Thao Lam as Lin + Lam. She teaches in the school of media studies at the New School.
  • Beza Merid is an LSA Collegiate Fellow in the department of communication studies and a faculty affiliate in the science, technology, and society program at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Merid’s research examines how patients, caregivers, health institutions, and policy-makers communicate what it means to be a “responsible” patient. He is particularly interested in the role that illness narratives play in this communication, and in how these narratives are used in the context of health activism.
  • What Would an HIV Doula Do? is a collective of artists, activists, academics, chaplains, doulas, health-care practitioners, nurses, filmmakers, AIDS Service Organization employees, dancers, community educators, and others joined in response to the ongoing AIDS crisis. WWHIVDD? understands a doula as someone who holds space for others during times of transition. WWHIVDD? understands HIV as a series of transitions in someone’s life that does not begin with testing or diagnosis and does not end with treatment or death. Asking questions is foundational to the collective’s process.