In the essay “AIDS: Cultural Ananlysis/ Cultural Actvism,” Douglas Crimp explores the power of art to evoke change in terms of spreading education and support for AIDS research. In the essay, he quotes several people in the art world and their view of art and AIDS. The most interesting and problematic quote to Crimp is made by Robert Rosenblum. Rosenblum said “By now, in the 1980s, we are all disenchanted enough to know that no work of art, however much it may fortify the spirit or nourish the eye and mind, has the slightest power to save a life. Only science can do that. But… art… is made and valued by human beings who live and die, and that it can generate a passionate abundance of solidarity, love, intelligence, and most important, money” (5). Crimp of course finds the ability to strip art down to its commodified value rather demeaning. From here, Crimp spends the majority of the essay explaining the irony of the statement and how art really can evoke change, but unlike Rosenblum, Crimp fails to explicitly state how art can save lives. Rosenblum does take into account the power of art on a person’s emotions and thus on its ability to connect people, but even so, he claims it does not evoke change (unless acted upon?). Crimp mentions a powerful art exhibition in the window of the New Museum that confronts the viewer with hard-hitting facts, but even Crimp makes it clear that the piece was “made for an art-world location, and it appears to have been largely for an art-world audience” (12). After reading the essay, I am left questioning both Rosenblum and Crimp; is the question whether art has the ability to cause change or does the ever expanding frame in which a piece of art is viewed the power of the piece itself? Crimp also explains how the art medium of video is the popular choice when it comes to depicting and educating the struggle of AIDS. Crimp writes, “There are a number of explanations for this… video can sustain a fairly complex array of information; and cable access and the widespread use of VCRs provide the potential of a large audience for this work” (14). Thus, Crimp’s major point is that the accessibility of the video is what makes video more effective than the piece at the New Musem. I think Crimp can also expand his argument to include how video can be more widely understood as well as the fluidity of video, that, to an extent, transcends a static frame. Because video can be so effective and widespread, the impact, although paid for, is far greater than any monetary, comodified value.
Crimp, Douglas. “AIDS: Cultural Ananlysis/ Cultural Actvism.” Melancholia and Moralism: Essays on AIDS and Queer Politics. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, p.27-p.43.