Audio History of AIDS Epidemic Brings Humanity to NYC Memorial

The New York City AIDS Memorial sits on a small, triangular plot that was part of the former St. Vincent’s Hospital campus, the first hospital in the city to establish an AIDS ward. A new audio project aims to bring the monument to life with the voices of the AIDS epidemic.

Hear Me: Voices of the Epidemic” is a forty-five minute recording that will play from the AIDS memorial every evening throughout the month of December. The recording features archival clips like activist Larry Kramer’s famous 1991 “plague” speech, David Wojnarowicz’s audio recordings during ACT-UP demonstrations, and Vito Russo’s “Why We Fight” speech. “Hear Me” also includes recordings of a younger generation, who discuss what it is like to live with AIDS today and confront the history of the crisis.

David Harper, executive director of the memorial, told artnet that the project was in development for over a year. The idea to bring these voices to the site was inspired in part by the abstract, angular shape of the memorial itself. “It’s such a beautiful, iconic structure, but the hard edges sometimes push against the humanity it embodies. How can we make the memorial more human and more alive?” Harper said.

“Hear Me: Voices from the Epidemic” launched on December 1 in honor of World AIDS Day. The recording will play at 7 PM each night for the rest of the month. The project also includes an online component “A Time to Listen,” a series of six hour-long conversations related to the content of “Hear Me.”