We Are Still Here

5 – 30 October 2021
Tuesday -Friday 11.30 – 16.30
The Vestibules, Bristol
City Hall, College Green, Bristol BS1 5TR, United Kingdom

‘If there is no image, there is no identity’

The exhibition ‘We Are Still Here’ focuses on individuals affected by HIV/AIDS and their living spaces. The project aims to counter a decline in visibility of the HIV/AIDS community by inviting the audience in to these personal spaces, which have been curated to better the mental health of their inhabitants.

© Mareike Günsche

Portraits by photographer Mareike Günsche will be displayed alongside images selected by the participants of objects from, and areas in, their living spaces which bring them joy .The exhibition allows the subjects to represent their own sense of place, both as individuals and within wider society. Due to stigmatisation in the past, the subjects of the exhibition may have been excluded from traditional living rooms, and there is presently a steady decline in awareness about HIV/AIDS in the public consciousness. The exhibition, and wider ongoing project from which is it drawn, affirms ‘We Are Still Here’. The project  also exists online so that those within the HIV-community across the world, can add their own stories in perpetuity.

© Mareike Günsche

‘Photography can immortalise victims and offer remembrance, but this medium is also a poignant and reassuring tool for survivors. Not to be forgotten are the families of both, and the difficulties that come with understanding a disease that’s also experienced second-hand. The family portrait will be examined as an institution of both exclusion and inclusion, with participatory photography to be used as a means of reclamation for the absence of a whole community. Due to stigmatisation, HIV+ people have been excluded and even banished from many traditional living rooms in the past. If there is no image, there is no identity. This is even truer in today’s times of expanding social media, where the image becomes the medium of legitimation. Photography and its crucial role as a means of identity, visibility and representation will therefore be used as a resource to help negate such stigmatisation.”

© Mareike Günsche

Martin Burns – Writer, HIV/AIDS activist and equality advocateThis interdisciplinary research project is a collaboration between Dr Adrian Flint (University of Bristol, SPAIS), Mareike Günsche (Photographer/Educator and Lecturer of photography at the State University of Arts, Mongolia) and Martin Burns (Writer, HIV/AIDS activist and equality advocate). This exhibition has been produced as a result of the festival commissioning programme in collaboration with the Brigstow Institute (University of Bristol).