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Hear Me: Voices of the Epidemic


Our new open-space experiential sound-and-light based installation will run for thirty consecutive evenings beginning World AIDS Day, Tuesday, December 1, 2020. Amid a new pandemic, listening to these voices can help guide us.

We are proud to announce the launch of an original, sound-based installation in recognition of World AIDS Day. The approximately hour-long soundtrack is composed of historical texts, poetry, speeches, music, and more that capture the history of the epidemic. Examples include a powerful speech by activist Vito Russo, a song composed by Michael Callen, historic recordings of an ACT UP-led protest made by artist David Wojnarowicz, and a poem by artist Kia LaBeija. Visitors are welcome to hear the program, accompanied by a distinctive lighting installation, nightly at 7 p.m. through the month of December. Hear Me will be preceded each day, beginning at 10 a.m., by a recording featuring the names of over 2,000 New Yorkers, representing a fraction of the 100,000+ lost to AIDS, and read by What Would an HIV Doula Do?, a group of activists, caregivers, friends, long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS, and people living with HIV today. 

Note: There is limited seating available at the New York City AIDS Memorial and we ask that all visitors wear masks and respect New York City social distancing protocols.

Hear Me will invite audiences to experience both the transformation of the permanent structure of the New York City AIDS Memorial by using state-of-the-art speakers and advanced lighting systems designed by leading engineering firm Arup. This program will be free and open to the public and can easily be experienced while maintaining all advised social distancing protocols. Hear Me is the third exhibition under the NYC AIDS Memorial Arts and Education Initiative. This initiative supports interactive, experiential, digital, and site-specific educational and arts programming and furthers the Memorial’s aim throughout the world. 

“In times of uncertainty, people look to the past for guidance,” says New York City AIDS Memorial Executive Director Dave Harper. “Since our dedication on World AIDS Day in 2016, it has been the goal of the New York City AIDS Memorial to create a living and breathing tribute to the 100,000 New Yorkers lost to AIDS, and to the activists and caretakers who led the fight to end AIDS. This installation will connect the power of this place to the voices of the past, allowing visitors to learn and engage within our sacred space. We are thrilled to launch a new project that centers our organizational mission of remembrance during these challenging times while also creating public awareness of the ongoing AIDS epidemic through educational and cultural initiatives. We look forward to welcoming the public to the Memorial during a time when cultural projects have been limited by this ongoing pandemic.”

“During this time, I think a lot of us are trying to figure out how to be together,” observes the creative consultant for Hear Me, Theodore (ted) Kerr. “Hear Me is an answer, a bold and visionary way forward. It is a sound installation that uses our AIDS history, voices from our movements, and the Memorial as a place for community. Every night, for a month, Hear Me is an open invitation for people to social distance together, a place to reflect on the past, gather in the present, and imagine and work towards a better future.”

Hear Me will be supported by a new, online conversation series called A Time To Listen. This six-episode recorded series features a wide breadth of thought leaders, artists, and activists sharing current experiences and knowledge of AIDS history connected to New York City and beyond through a discussion of media, including speeches, songs, poems, plays, and oral histories. Episodes will be published on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the month of November, beginning November 5, in the lead up to the launch of Hear Me at the New York City AIDS Memorial on World AIDS Day. For more information and a full list of participants, please visit the page on this site here, or explore our mini-site at www.atimetolisten.org.

Funding for Hear Me has been generously provided by the New York City Council Speaker’s Fund and the Ralph Lauren Corporate Foundation.

Sound design, programming, and production for Hear Me are by Helen Searle, Léonard Roussel, and Raj Patel, Arup. Lighting design is by Kristen Garibaldi, Arup.

MEDIA CONTACT: David Simantov, Blue Medium Inc., +1 (212) 675-1800, david@bluemedium.com