FROM A PLACE IN ME STILL UNBROKEN /
DESDE ALGÚN LUGAR EN MI TODAVIA SIN ROMPER
Mixed medium sculptures, portraits taken by cruising strangers, video, and written works.
Created while in residence at LaFragua in Andalusia, Spain, 2015 and exhibited in a solo show by the same title at CoMbo Gallery Córdoba, Spain, April 2015
 
An HIV positive body disrupts the binary understanding of what might perceived as either broken or whole. What is left of a body that has undergone trauma? What trauma remains with a person who goes on living? Is living itself not a transgression? What does it mean to be healthy or ill, to be gay, to be queer? What does it mean to be straight, when the naked person who meets in the bushes is a married father of four?
Were you ever there, when the streets filled with with angry shouts, fire, and rage? Were you ever moved to tears at the courage of others who spoke while you remained silent?
Did you ever truly come close to dying and accept it? Is survival all that matters? Did you ever really fall in love? Are you able to trust anyone? Have you ever felt safe? Who will be there to carry you? Were you ever there to carry another?  Were you ever truly happy? Did you try and fail? Were you ever proud? Should it matter?
Have you really lived at all? Will you?
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EXCERPTED INTERVIEW WITH CURATOR JESÚS ALCAIDE: 
JESÚS ALCAIDE:
In an important text, published in 1988 Paula Treichler's research about AIDS  “An epidemic of Signification”
states that the discourse of AIDS attaches itself in a series of discursive dichotomies like “self and not-self, the one and the other, homosexual and heterosexual, homosexual and “the general population”, active and passive, guilty and innocent, perpetrator and victim, vice and virtue, us and them, anus and vagina, sins of the parent and innocence of the child, love and death, sex and death, sex and money, death and money, science and not science, knowledge and ignorance, doctor and patient, expert and patient, doctor and expert, addiction and abstention, contamination and cleanliness, contagion and containment, life and death, injection and reception, instrument and receptacle, normal and abnormal, natural and alien, prostitute and paragon, whore and wife, safe sex and bad sex, safe sex and good sex, First World and Third World, free world and iron curtain, capitalist and communists, certainty and uncertainty, virus and victim, guest and host". With relation to the use of text and language in your work, do you think that still operates within these dichotomies?

SHAN KELLEY
:
This work was created with an attention towards nuance and the willful omission or absence of nuance within the context of AIDS. While I don’t disagree with what Treichler is noting, exponentially complex structures of understanding exist within, and beyond the binary of those dichotomies. What is significant to me about what Treichler is saying is that it’s of utmost importance to be critical, particularly of those who posit science, and medicine as the foremost authorities and beholders of knowledge. There is a lived experience which informs those power structures. In this sense I hope to reclaim a right to that power.

JESÚS ALCAIDE:
The piece of text “From a place in me still unbroken” are in company of another that reads “From a broken place in me still”. Could you explain the meaning of this text?

SHAN KELLEY:

“From A Place In Me Still Unbroken / From A Broken Place In Me Still” is work that was created to address the measure through which the experience of trauma can be carried. I want to try and disrupt the discourse which surrounds the themes of sickness by proposing an exploration of personal narratives through a series of artworks in which an HIV+ politicized body reclaims space. My endeavour was to create sculpture, visual objects and language as artefacts which address and exorcise trauma, and transgress the limitations of body. My experience with HIV /AIDS has long since become a metaphor for the human condition rife with contradictions, hope, defiance, acceptance, and I propose; transgression.

JESÚS ALCAIDE:

You made some photographic work that are taken in cruising areas in the city of Córdoba. This is the continuity that some works that you began in México about the notion of sex, power & desire in relation with these places. What are you discovering in relation with this research?

SHAN KELLEY:
My interest in cruising comes from spaces and geographies in which, yes, sex may or may not take place .. but I'm particularly fascinated by negotiation within these places. The exchange of power, the sensibility towards vulnerability and tension is greatly heightened. In many ways those encounters with others are very purposeful and accelerated, almost augmented realities.. In that an entire relationship can be collapsed into a brief fragment of time. I'm captivated not only by the negotiations but by the actual environment in which all this takes place Spaces which exist in the periphery seem to be governed by a unique set of codes. These sites also co-exist within the framework of exclusion from society at large. I was first interested in taking photos of others in this environment but decided it would be more interesting to reverse the gaze, place myself in the center of all this and request of others to take my portrait. Through that, I find people open up in a much different way, and I'm intrigued by the sensibility, and the manner by which an other will observe or behave when offered that power.
I’m particularly camera shy and not at all comfortable being the center or subject of my own work, but these opportunities to confront my own discomfort leave me feeling as if I can somehow reclaim part of me that was otherwise vulnerable. How freeing it is to have nothing to hide and nothing to be ashamed of.
Through experience with disclosure of my HIV+ status, whether to friends, lovers, or as a speaker at a conference, I’ve become hyper aware of the reciprocity that takes place. In nearly every instance post disclosure, intimacies that are seldom or never shared would be shared with me. I see disclosure as a means to foment trust and safety through honesty, and vulnerability which has translated directly into how I approach work with a camera.
This acceptance and openness towards vulnerability is very off putting in an environment where strangers are cruising for sex for example, and plays directly into tropes present in BDSM communities in which the bottom, the submissive, can be an arbiter of power.
In all these photos I make use of the camera on a mobile device because I think that is emblematic of this very contemporary reflection of how we communicate, share and become introverted. The medium is as much the message.

JESÚS ALCAIDE:
You titled the photographs with the description of the man that made the photo like for example “Photo taken by aggressive man who was riding a red motorcycle or Photo taken by Julio (pasivo) a married husband of two and sports coach”. What is  the importance of these titles? Do you think that others construct our identity?.

SHAN KELLEY:
The point of the title is to give a hint to the interaction that took place between myself and the photographer. In some cases there was a lengthy conversation and in others, an intense or abbreviated exchange.
Within the construction of identity:
I think that it is our human nature, and perhaps as much instinct as learned behaviour to make judgements. We all come with presets of a lived experience that informs our capacity to see others for who they are. Cognitive psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham developed  a model they called Johari window in which identity and self awareness is directly contingent on what is known /unknown of self, and what is known/ unknown of, and by others. Construction of self identity also takes into consideration of course, how one believes they are perceived by others. This is, I think largely how the rise of ego, and overt narcissism present in social media technologies has become commonplace. There is both an unconscious, and hyper-conscious construction of how we hope that we are perceived by others. There is a very curated effort to construct the vision we hope others have of our lives and of our selves. So in many ways, I believe we are in a time in which individuals. more than ever, have become curators obsessed with mitigating  and managing identity.

JESÚS ALCAIDE:
With the photographic works and some sculptures, you present a video, could you talk more about this work?
SHAN KELLEY:
I've created a single channel video from a 16minute continuous take of a beetle which is turned on it's back. The beetle struggles agonisingly, but eventually manages to turn over onto its feet. I appreciate the length of this video because unless it's viewed in its entirety, it would be easy to assume that the struggling beetle simply continues to do so on an endless loop, and there would be no resolution, no happy ending.
  This struggle to come aground seems to make it a fairly literally work really, but I like the association between Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. In Kafka’s Metamorphosis, I relate to the transformation of a man into a creature reviled by those around him, those who would otherwise protect, love and comfort him. In the end, death brings not peace for the transformed, but peace, and a sense of relief for others who are in discomfort with his reality and condition. There is a dangerous apathy present today which I think foundationally shuns  the afflicted and diseased, one that systematically wills their extinction. In absence of extinction, the state exerts surveillance, control, and bleeds money from the dying.
That may seem a grim assessment, but it is often overlooked that pharmacare, like the prison system are capatalist and lucrative businesses that depend, that thrive on the perpetuity of sickness and incarceration. So as an observer witnessing the beetle, my hope is that the viewer is compelled towards compassion. It seems altogether pathetic that life might actually end for a creature that can not return upright. – This is also the title of the video work.

JESÚS ALCAIDE:

In a city like Córdoba, when we talk about the relation between art and activism in the fields of AIDS, we think in the work of Pepe Espaliú. What do you think about Espaliu’s work? Do you think that is still operative?

SHAN KELLEY:

I find it difficult to speak of Pepe Espaliú’s work as a whole, because what I’ve been fortunate enough to see firsthand or otherwise involves such a diversity. He’s worked to great accomplishment in illustration, painting, photography, conceptual, sculptural, and indeed performative mediums to narrowly name but a few.
Thanks largely perhaps to the success, fame and media attention Carrying received however, the work has become not just his definitive art, it has taken precedence over most other discussions of AIDS activism in Spain. In much the same way that ACT-UP for example, can be problematised as the definitive AIDS movement of the United States.
When I read about Espaliú’s work, particularly when I read about Carrying for example, I’m bothered by how this performance is discussed as an action, one that comes as a response at the height of AIDS crisis era. I’m bothered by that because the action seems to be framed in a way which presumes that people living with HIV are no longer in a crisis era. Looking back at that action, at that part of Espaliú’s work which now exists in art catalogue, in encyclopædia, in database filed away as a memento of a time that was- is a dangerous way of viewing the past. This happens not just with Espaliú of course, but with much of the art, the protest movements, and the actions of many people that now sit frozen as a placeholder to a terrible time long, long ago. I can’t help but get angry and emotional about that because this is still a crisis era for me, for many I know, and for many I will never get to know.
I don’t believe that Carrying was a work grounded in a space and time that intended a singular reaction to the crisis. I don’t believe that. I think that work was meant to activate further response, further compassion, further action, and not become the curtain call that it has. I’m inspired to try and uphold his inspiration in me as a human, one that would carry the dignity of another who fought in this war.
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From A Place In Me Still Unbroken, handmade pressed paper, 12 in. x 18 in. 2015
From A Broken Place In Me Still, handmade pressed paper, 12 in. x 18 in. 2015
I've Come Such A Long Way To Get Here , handmade pressed paper, woven wire, 13 in. circ. x 8in.  2015
As Much As I Can Take, Mixed Medium (wood, powdered marble, resin, paint, woven wire) 10 in. x 18 in. 2015
I Have A Plan, Mixed Medium (handmade pressed paper, wood, paint, resin, powdered marble, woven wire) 12 in. x 18 in. 2015
Desde Algún Lugar En Mi Todavia Sin Romper, handmade pressed paper, 24 in. x 18 in. 2015
Desde Algún Lugar Roto Todavia Dentro De Mi , handmade pressed paper, 24 in. x 18 in. 2015
It Seems Altogether Pathetic That Life Might Actually End For A Creature That Can Not Return Upright (video still detail) 16 min single channel digital video, 2015
Photo Taken By José (Pasivo), who likes reading encyclopediæ and lives nearby, 18 in. x 24 in. 2015
Photo taken by Francisco (activo) who jogs regularly, loves cooking, and prefers group sex outdoors whenever possible, 18 in. x 24 in. 2015
Photo taken by Julio (pasivo) a married husband of two and sports coach, 18 in. 24 in., 2015
,Photo taken by Julio (pasivo) a married husband of two and sports coach, 18 in. 24 in., 2015
Photo taken by an aggressive man who was riding a red motorcycle, 18 in. x 24 in. 2015
Ultimately, One Of Us Has To Go, oil paint, tempera, water colour and resin on masonite, 10 in x 10 in. 2015
How Will I Be Carried ? wood, paint, coloured pencil, woven wire, 6 in. x 12 in. 2015
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