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Digital Gallery

Surviving & Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture

Postcard Politics

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By the mid-1980s, as the AIDS epidemic became a full-on crisis, AIDS activists turned to art and graphic design to illustrate and punctuate their responses to the disease and the resulting social crises. Emerging out of ACT UP’s (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) Gran Fury, a collective of artists who used their talents to fight AIDS, artistic activism insisted that visual culture had tremendous power to affect behavioral and political change. Gran Fury plastered urban neighborhoods with posters featuring arresting and provocative images that forced some to confront their homophobia and others to reimagine what they could do to fight AIDS.

In addition to creating posters, artists reproduced those images as postcards. These small, portable, inexpensive items were visual reminders of how big the AIDS crisis had become. Displayed for the taking at bars, restaurants, neighborhood shops, and community centers, these postcards allowed activists, including those who never joined Gran Fury, to reach an even wider audience.