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The Public Deployment of Identity:

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by

Erin Bernard

on 8 December 2014

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Transcript of The Public Deployment of Identity:

Activists Unlimited:
The Philadelphia Women's Encampment for Peace and ACT UP, 1983-1993

Guiding Questions
How did
1980s activists of Philadelphia
use their
bodies, artwork, identities, and police boundaries
to stake a claim in Twentieth-Century American urban spaces,
physical and political?

How did these
activists treat public spaces as galleries
through
the deployment of identity
?

How did the
thoughts and actions of activists
mirror the
thought processes and practices of curators
?
Historiography and Evidence
On Spatial Politics in Urban Places
-The Right to the City (Don Mitchell)
-Policing Dissent (Luis A. Fernandez)
-The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jane Jacobs)
On the intersection of Curating and Social Change
-The One and the Many (Grant Kester)
-The Power of Place (Dolores Hayden)
-Museums, Monuments, and National Parks (Denise Meringolo)
On Activism in Philadelphia
-Civil Rights in the Northern City (Urban Archives)
-A Movement without Marches (Lisa Levenstein)
-Let it Burn (on MOVE)
The Women's Encampment
From
Clark Park
to the
Franklin Plaza Hotel
ACT UP: Silence = Death.
The Public Presence of Women and Gays
-Gendered Identity vs. Sexual Identity
Visible vs. Invisible
=
Need for Community Center
=
ACT UP had space and dedicated volunteers
to preserve (archives) and
exhibit history (gallery spaces).

*Yet PWEP still saved their ephemera/papers and submitted them to Swarthmore College at relatively expedient pace.


SO WHAT?
-
Not all activists are curators
, but it is helpful to the museum profession to
embrace a pluralistic definition of curator
when
people outside museum walls
embody
key elements of curatorial practice-- to care, deploy messaging, and preserve.
EVIDENCE
-
Philadelphia Women's Encampment for Peace Collection
at Swarthmore College
(Includes Papers, Newspaper Articles, and Ephemera)
-
ACT UP Philadelphia Collection

at the John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives of
William Way Community Center
(Newspaper Articles and Ephemera)
-
Conferences with Bob Skiba
Archivist of William Way
-
United in Anger: A History of ACT UP

(documentary film with footage from demonstrations)
Deployment of
DEATH
DIE - IN
Center City Philadelphia, PA
September 12, 1991

-during visit to city from President George Bush
-FOR: recognition of AIDS as crisis by White House
-members of ACT UP "died" on Philadelphia streets to demonstrate the death toll caused by AIDS.
-Violence started once protestors
chose
to
break through police barricade
to reach Broad Street.

Deployment of
SEXUALITY
Protest and DIE-IN
St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York, NY
November 1989
-In response to Cardinal O'Connor condemnation of condom use
-Curated DIE-IN, used floor layout of church, wrote and distributed "bulletin"
-Event began with silent DIE-IN in church aisle with sprinkling of "bulletins" to churchgoers.
-Stopped mass once protestors began to
break the sound barrier
in the church-- arrest followed.
Deployment of
DIVERSITY
(
RACE
and
SEX)
NIH Campus Protest with
Rainbow Smoke Procession*
Bethseda, Maryland
1990
-Universal chant of
"NIH Scientists need to work with Activists!"
-Group chants of:
(a)
"NIH Mira, Latinos guerra SIDA!"
(b)
"People of Color, Under Attack!
What do we do? ACT UP, Fight Back!"
(c)
"Drug Trials for Women!"

*The Rainbow Smoke was a deployment of GAY identity and a huge part of the identity of ACT UP as an organization.
Philadelphia Women's Encampment for Peace Ephemera Collection. "Banner." Accessed 23 September 2014. Image Use Courtesy Swarthmore College Peace Collection
-
No Arrests
in Public Parks

-
Close Surveillance
in Independence National Historical Park, July 4, 1983.

-
Arrest
, Franklin Plaza Hotel
October 6, 1983.
During gala of 1,500 guests including VP George Bush and German President Carsten, PWEP entered hotel, sat in circle on second level, sang songs against euro-missiles

Defense in Court and Portrayal in Media:

We are "responsible, loving people...mothers."
(See ephemera
!
)
ACTIVIST
CURATOR

To
care for a cause
to the point that one
deploys his or her or their own identity
in
public space

with artwork
and deliberately
breaks boundaries

with the body
to
spread the message of cause
;
the artwork and legacy are saved by the activists
.
-By studying local activist movements as opposed to global dissent, historians can see that many activists made
deliberate choices within police control.
Activists do have agency and use it
creatively
to lobby for social change!
*1980s = RADICAL.
Activists saved stuff.
Deployment of DEATH
Deployment of SEXUALITY
Deployment of DIVERSITY
Film Stills from United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, minute 36:25, 53:26. Photo of Paul Arcure during the September 12, 1991 DIE IN in Philadelphia, PA courtesy of John J. Wilcox, Jr. Archives. ACT UP Demonstrations folder. Accessed 31 October 2014.
Philadelphia Women's Encampment for Peace Ephemera Collection. "Get Liberty off her Pedestal and into Womyn's lives." Accessed 23 September 2014. Image Use Courtesy Swarthmore College Peace Collection
Full transcript