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Jean Carlomusto and Jane Rosett

This article features video from an interactive multimedia installation produced by Jean Carlomusto and Jane Rosett. The installation features materials compiled from their personal archives documenting the AIDS pandemic for the past twenty years. The video and text are reproduced with the permission of Jean Carlomusto and Jane Rosett. Any and all aspects and components of the installation, video, and text pertaining to AIDS: A LIVING ARCHIVE™ and THE PORTRAIT GALLERY are copyright 1983-2003 Jean Carlomusto and Jane Rosett.

To view the video, you will need a Quicktime Player, available as a free download by clicking here.

THE PORTRAIT GALLERY is an interactive multi-media installation that allows visitors to explore the evolution of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It provides a public forum to commemorate the dead, educate the living, and fight to end this global health crisis.

THE PORTRAIT GALLERY is one of the most popular installations within AIDS: A LIVING ARCHIVE™, an interactive multi-media installation that allows visitors to explore the evolution of a health crisis that forever changed medical research and public policy toward those with communicable disease.

AIDS: A LIVING ARCHIVE™ premiered at the Museum of the City of New York in 2001 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.

THE PORTRAIT GALLERY is a U-shaped altar lit by 36 softly glowing and flickering electronic votive candles and a projected image of a live flickering candle flame accompanied by the gospel song, "Let There Be Light," performed a cappella, solo. Each votive candle on the altar illuminates a photo of a person with HIV/AIDS.

When a visitor presses the button whose photo corresponds with that on the candle, the selected candle becomes brighter, while, simultaneously, all of the remaining 35 candles go dim. A brief video portrait featuring the person with HIV/AIDS who is pictured on the selected candle is activated and projected behind the altar. Once the selected video is finished being projected, all 36 softly glowing electronic votive candles, as well as the projected image of the live candle, return to a flicker until a visitor selects and activates another portrait.

THE PORTRAIT GALLERY utilizes the capacity of interactive physical computing to expand the ubiquitous multicultural tradition of lighting a candle as an act of memorial. It simultaneously creates both a visual archive based in oral history and an interactive public memorial. We have avoided typical computer interfaces, such as keyboard and mouse, in favor of more innovative approaches to physical computing.

AIDS: A LIVING ARCHIVE™ is exhibited in public spaces due to the enormous popularity of interactive arcade games among adolescents. The interactive nature of this exhibition is specifically designed to appeal to adolescents, the group with the fastest growing rates of HIV infections.

This online sample of THE PORTRAIT GALLERY, which we are pleased to have been invited to feature here in The Scholar and Feminist Online, reflects the basic structure of our ongoing project. The biographical portraits that we have chosen to include in THE PORTRAIT GALLERY reflect the diverse epidemiological, cultural, geographic, and economic realities of people living with HIV/AIDS, and thus portray the comprehensive and varied demographic realities of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Furthermore, the intimate, interactive nature of THE PORTRAIT GALLERY enables visitors to learn about HIV/AIDS through voices and images, while further expanding the acts of celebration, commemoration, and memorialization.

S&F Online - Issue 2.1, Public Sentiments - Ann Cvetkovich and Ann Pellegrini, Guest Editors - ©2003.