UNANSWERED OUTCRY: INTERVIEW WITH COLLABORATING CURATOR GEORGE CISCLE
REPRISE: 40 to the Fore rethinks, remixes, and re-presents some of the groundbreaking exhibitions that emerged from our galleries over the past 40 years.
For each exhibition, we invited a collaborating curator to help recommend artists and refine the scope and focus of each, and we’re pleased to introduce you to collaborating curator George Ciscle. Stay tuned to for upcoming interviews with all four collaborating curators, as well as highlights of each re-presentation.
AIDS Unanswered (2014) in response to Outcry: Artists Answer AIDS (1990)
In 1990, George Ciscle curated Outcry: Artists Answer AIDS. Ciscle returns for AIDS Unanswered along with artists Virginia Brown who participated in the 1990 exhibition and Amy Boone‐McCreesh. He is Director of the MFA in Curatorial Practice at Maryland Institute College of Art. He was previously the founder and director of The Contemporary Museum in Baltimore.
What was the impetus for Outcry: Artists Answer AIDS, the exhibition that you organized in 1990 and brought to AAC?
Between 1985-89 when I directed the Geoge Ciscle Gallery in Baltimore many of the artists I worked with were either HIV positive and/or dying of AIDS.
Consequently, some of the exhibits at the gallery became fundraisers for AIDS service providers and research efforts. In the months leading up to the founding of The Contemporary I proposed the exhibit to the Mayor’s Office of Arts as one of the featured summer Artscape exhibitions. After its acceptance and opening it became apparent that the AIDS crisis would become the focus of the museum’s first initiative and public conversation.
How did the show come to travel to Arlington Arts Center?
Angela Adams (Arlington’s Public Art Administrator) had seen it at Artscape and became aware that The Contemporary was planning to sponsor a regional tour. She saw it as an opportunity for AAC to conceive of accompanying programming and outreach to Arlington County.
What sort of responses did you get to this exhibition?
Since this was the first public “discussion” of the crisis, the exhibit took the role of convener and provided a safe environment for the general public with the healthcare and the arts communities to understand AIDS more clearly and provide support for those being affected by it.
How do you think the AIDS crisis has changed in the 24 years since the exhibition?
In 1990 AIDS was more “localized” within the U.S. and gay men. Twenty-three years later, the crisis continues, but on an international level without regard for locale or sexual orientation.
Are artists responding to it differently now?
For many artists in the last two decades their artwork addresses this as either part of their own identity or how it has personally affected their lives.
Do you think artists and curators have a responsibility to address social issues in their work?
Artists who address social issues in their work have played an important part in my own work as a curator and educator. It is also now integral to the MICA MFA in Curatorial Practice’s curriculum to explore how emerging curators can connect what today’s artists are addressing to the larger audience outside of the art world.