“HIVstories: Living Politics”
Exhibition opening at Biennale Warszawa 31.01.2020

press release

What politics have to do with HIV? The new exhibition HIVstories: Living Politics, opening on 31 January at Biennale Warszawa, is trying to find an answer to this question.  During the opening night it will be possible to get tested for HIV free of charge and anonymously.

Authors ask how politics combine with biographies, activism and involvement in counteracting HIV/AIDS. The exhibition presents them from the perspective of multiple communities, countries and regions, including Poland, Germany, UK, Turkey, and it constitutes the result of a three-year-long effort of EUROPACH, a team of researchers affiliated with four European universities.

Researchers from Kraków, Warsaw, London, Berlin and Basel, in collaboration with a great many community partner organisations, collected artefacts, archival documents and art works, and conducted oral history interviews with activists, advocates, politicians, bureaucrats and medical practitioners. Instead of a single, dominant narrative, the exhibition HIVstories: Living Politics demonstrates multiple possible lives, activist actions and policies within the struggle against HIV/AIDS.

The project has a special meaning in the Polish context. In the words of the curatorial team, “The rights of different communities (including LGBT+ communities, women, people who use drugs, migrants, sex workers) are not being respected and protected by the law.   With the increase of authoritarian and neoliberal governance, the life conditions of these communities become increasingly precarious. On the other hand, in recent years we are also witnessing enhanced self-organising efforts among Polish citizens. Countless strikes, protests, open letters and support networks demonstrate the lived character of politics/policies – as they are made, questioned, negotiated and executed from the bottom up.”

The exhibition is accompanied by an extensive programme of public events, such as guided tours, film screenings, lectures, discussions and round table debates. Topics of these meetings include self-organisation and activism, HIV penalisation, problems of persons living with HIV, relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and activism, or experiences of sex workers. Admission to all events as well as the exhibition itself is free. Detailed event program is available on the Biennale website.

During the opening night on 31 January 2020 it will be possible to get tested for HIV free of charge and anonymously (without submitting any personal data). The action is carried out by the Social Education Foundation (FES). The test will be accompanied by a conversation with an advisor aimed at estimating the risk of being infected with HIV.

HIVstories: Living Politics was first shown in the Schwules Museum in Berlin in the autumn of 2019 (12 September to 11 November 2019). The exhibition at Biennale Warszawa, 34/50 Marszałkowska Street (MA3450), will be open until 1 March 2020.

HIVstories: Living Politics

Free admission

Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday 12.00–20.00, Monday: closed

Opening night: 31.01.2020, 20.00

Curatorial team: Zülfukar Çetin, Agata Dziuban, Friederike Faust, Emily Jay Nicholls, Noora Oertel, Todd Sekuler, Justyna Struzik, Alper Turan

Exhibition organisers: Biennale Warszawa, EUROPACH, Jagiellonian University Institute of Sociology

Exhibition design: Valerie Assmann

Production: Ela Petruk

Cooperation: Beate Binder, Peter-Paul Bänziger, Martin Lengwiler, Marsha Rosengarten

Co-financing: HERA Knowledge Exchange and Impact Award

Partner organisations:
ACT UP Oral History Project
Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, Germany
European African Treatment Advocates Network (EATAN)
Europe and Central Asia Union of People Living with HIV (ECUO)
European AIDS Treatment Group (EATG)
European Network of People Who Use Drugs (EuroNPUD)
Hydra, Germany
İnsan Kaynağını Geliştirme Vakfı (İKGV), Turkey
International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe (ICRSE)
Justri, UK
Kaos GL, Turkey
National AIDS Trust, UK
Pembe Hayat LGBTT Dayanışma Derneği (Pink Life LGBTT Solidarity Association), Turkey
Positiv Living Assoziation, Turkey
Pozitif-iz, Turkey
PLUS, Poland
Social Committee for AIDS, Poland
PREKURSOR Foundation for Social Policy, Poland

Funding for the research that was used to produce HIVstories: Living Politics was generously provided by the Humanities in the European Research Area as part of their 3rd Joint Research Programme under the rubric “Uses of the Past.”


Contact for the media: