An experimental film intervention, Inflamed, aims to explore sociopolitical, technocratic textures of latex, specifically as they relate to ongoing AIDS crises. A collaboration by artists and activists Chaplain Christopher Jones, Theodore Kerr, Niknaz and LJ Roberts illuminates the thoughts, fears, and questions as they relate to the condom, both a complex object and symbol.
The 16mm film is a progression from a poster created by Jones and Kerr inspired by the work and lived experience of Jones. The poster, made in 2014 for the AIDS Action Now posterVirus project, provoked dialogue about the problematic ways the condom is often the only form of prevention forced upon or offered to black and brown men who have sex with men and other marginalized communities.
Various condom burning events hosted by the artists in Brooklyn and Fire Island play on the screen as the litany is read by Jones and Kerr. The act of burning a condom is seen here as a provocation, recalling both the myth of the burning bra, and the history of burning draft cards as a protest against war, as well as a site for community, solidarity building, and a place where knowledge can be shared, and questions asked. Key to this conversation are the various understandings, sense memory, and attachments people have to condoms, often related to age, life chances, aesthetics, race, orientation, faith, gender and class.
In an age where condoms are — for some — a loaded symbol of “AIDS Inc” and the systemic discrimination leveled against profiled and monitored bodies; and at a time pharmaceutical interventions such as PEP and PrEP are seemingly reducing the need for condoms; and at a time where carrying a condom can lead to arrest, what is one to make of the rubber? What does it smell, sound, feel like, to burn a condom? How can we account for the power of the latex?
The burning condom is the fire around which we can gather, watch, listen, feel, and discuss.
L.J. Roberts is an artist and writer whose studio practice primarily consists of large-scale site-specific knitted installations created with children’s toy knitting cranks and incredibly detailed embroideries. They hold a MFA in Fine Arts and MA in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. Most recently their work was included in 40 Under 40: Craft Futures at The Renwick Gallery of The Smithsonian Museum of American Art and in After My Own Heart at the Oakville Galleries in Toronto, Canada. Their work will be included in the forthcoming show Not Over: 25 Years of Visual AIDS at La Mama La Galleria in New York City and at upcoming shows at The Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University and Vox Populi in Philadelphia. L.J. was the 2010-2011 Fountainhead Fellow in the Craft/Materials Studies Department at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA and a 2012 Visiting Artist at The Bag Factory in Johannesburg, South Africa. L.J. also maintains a critical writing practice that bridges craft and queer theory. Their writing can be found in the anthology Extra/Ordinary: Craft Culture in Contemporary Art published by Duke University Press, Hyphen Magazine, Studio Potter Magazine, and a forthcoming anthology on “Craftivism” published by Arsenal Pulp Press. They were the past co-chair of the Queer Caucus for Art, an affiliate of the College Art Association. In 2012 they organized, along with collaborators Ted Kerr and Quito Ziegler, a three part discussion and screening series entitled Not Over: You, Me, Us and AIDS with the support of Visual AIDS.
Christopher Jones aka Chaplain Jones is a faith leader, writer, thinker, and arts-activist committed to creating conversation around sexuality and spirituality, and HIV/AIDS and faith. As a clinically trained chaplain, he is the founder of Griot Works Pastoral Service and an affiliate of the College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy. He currently is a Program Manager for the Harlem Center of New York City-based SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders).
Niknaz is an interdisciplinary artist and sometimes filmmaker interested in non-traditional communication strategies to convey ideas of intersubjectivity and ambiguous identities. Born in Tehran, Iran and raised in the US, Niknaz spent close to 10 years working professionally on film sets, learning from the masters of the trade. This background in traditional storytelling and motion picture film is the far-away foundation for the installation and interactive work they (“they” is used as a gender-free pronoun) do. They are interested in experimental story-telling and non-linear, experiential narratives. Their Bolex SBM is one of their most beloved pieces of equipment.