– Spring/Summer 2016

Touching What Does Not Yet Exist: Stuart Marshall and the HIV/AIDS Archive

Aimar Arriola

Stuart Marshall, Over Our Dead Bodies, 1991, video, colour, sound, 50/74min, promotional postcard. All images courtesy British Artists’ Film & Video Study Collection, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London

I am sitting in a room that inhibits sound but encourages touch.1 This room is the archive, a particular archive: the files on composer, artist, film-maker, writer, teacher and activist Stuart Marshall, available for consultation at the British Artists’ Film & Video Study Collection at Central Saint Martins in London. Marshall’s archive is no more than two cardboard boxes of research files and a handful of DVDs; they include production files, reading notes, funding applications, press cuts, cards, flyers and bank statements. These seemingly slight remains of an artist’s life offer insight into the history of HIV/AIDS and the policing of desire across history. Marshall’s archive is what Ann Cvetkovich, and many others after her, has called a ‘queer archive’.2 Such an archive is not only intent on remembering past strategies of resistance but also on activating them for present struggles; in so doing, it persistently throws into question what constitutes an archive. ‘The Archive’ was Marshall’s working title when he was writing what would become, after his death in 1993, the film A Bit of Scarlet (1996).3 Indeed, his engagement with historical representations of homosexuality

  1. I am Sitting in a Room is the title of a 1969 sound work by Alvin Lucier. Lucier was Marshall’s tutor at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where Marshall studied for an MA in music in 1971–72. See A. Lucier, ‘On Stuart Marshall’, in this issue of Afterall.

  2. Whereas Cvetkovich initially argued that queer intimacy always lies elsewhere, she has recently acknowledged that ‘histories of queer intimacy’ can also be found and performed in official institutions. See Ann Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Culture, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003; and ‘Personal Effects: The Material Archive of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas’s Domestic Life’, No More Potlucks, no.25, 2012, available at http:/nomorepotlucks.org/site/personal-effects-the-material-archive-of-gertrude-stein-and-alice-b-toklass-domestic-life-ann-cvetkovich/ (last accessed on 3 February 2016). On the archive as a repository of the critical strategies that have characterised lesbian, gay, trans and queer subjectivities and their productions, see also José Esteban Muñoz, ‘Ephemera as Evidence: Introductory Notes to Queer Acts’, Women & Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, vol.8, no.2, pp.5–16.

  3. Directed by Andrea Weiss, A Bit of Scarlet examines gay and lesbian filmic representations in mainstream British cinema and TV. It was inspired by Vito Russo’s book The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies (New York: Harper & Row, 1981), which Marshall referred to early on as an example of archaeological work. See Stuart Marshall, ‘Picturing Deviancy’, in Tessa Boffin and Sunil Gupta (ed.), Ecstatic Antibodies: Resisting the AIDS Mythology, London: Rivers Oram Press, 1990, pp.65–69.

  4. S. Marshall, ‘The Contemporary Political Use of Gay History: The Third Reich’, in Bad Object-Choices (ed.), How Do I Look, Seattle: Bay Press, 1991, p.68.

  5. A. Cvetkovich, ‘Queer Archival Futures: Case Study Los Angeles’, E-misférica, vol.9, no.1–2, Summer 2012, available at http://hemisphericinstitute.org/hemi/en/e-misferica-91/cvetkovich#sthash.gY3fmY4P.dpuf (last accessed on 3 February 2016).

  6. Martha Gever, ‘Pictures of Sickness: Stuart Marshall's Bright Eyes', October (special issue on ‘AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism’), vol.43, Winter 1987, p.113. This special issue would be published as a book the following year: Douglas Crimp (ed.), AIDS: Cultural Analysis / Cultural Activism, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1988. In his introduction, Crimp acknowledges that Bright Eyes was crucial to the very conceptualisation of the issue, alongside the activist film Testing the Limits (1987) and Simon Watney’s book Policing Desire: Pornography, AIDS and the Media (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987).

  7. See Roger Hallas, Reframing Bodies: AIDS, Bearing Witness, and the Queer Moving Image, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009. Colin Perry has also offered an analysis of Bright Eyes, in ‘Experimental TV’s Long Revolution’, Afterall Online, 6 August 2008, available at http://afterall.org/online/bright- eyes#.VqDwhhHtL9k (last accessed on 3 February 2016).

  8. In total, Marshall produced five videos for Channel 4: Bright Eyes (1984), produced for ‘The Eleventh Hour’; and Desire (1989), Comrades in Arms (1990), Over Our Dead Bodies (1991) and Blue Boys (1992), all of which were produced for the gay and lesbian weekly magazine programme ‘Out on Tuesday’, later renamed ‘Out’.

  9. Gregg Bordowitz, ‘Picture a Coalition’, in D. Crimp (ed.), AIDS: Cultural Analysis / Cultural Activism, op. cit., p.193.

  10. Laura U. Marks’s overall understanding of the haptic is built on the work of both nineteenth-century art historian Aloïs Riegl and the philosopher Gilles Deleuze. See L.U. Marks, Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002, in particular her analysis of HIV/AIDS-related works in chapter 6, ‘Loving a Disappearing Image’, pp.91–110.

  11. S. Marshall, ‘Desire’, production files, Stuart Marshall archive, British Artists’ Film & Video Study Collection, Central Saint Martins, London.

  12. At the time of his death, Marshall was working on two projects: the aforementioned A Bit of Scarlet and Keep Taking the Medicine (working title), a personal plea against AZT and for patient choice in AIDS treatment, reflecting his own personal and political commitment to holistic health.

  13. L.U. Marks, Touch, op. cit., p.105.

  14. Ibid., p.4.

  15. In my attention to hands, I distance myself from Marks’s understanding of the haptic. For example, when discussing Deleuze’s take on the depiction of hands in Robert Bresson’s films, Marks states: ‘Looking at hands would seem to evoke the sense of touch through identification, either with the person whose hands they are or with the hands themselves. The haptic bypasses such identifications and the distance from the image it requires.’ Ibid., p.8. My understanding of representation is closer to Deleuze’s rejection of the tripartite division of reality, representation and subjectivity. See Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, ‘Introduction: Rhizome’, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1980, trans. Brian Massumi), London: Continuum, 2004, p.25.

  16. Journal of the Plague Year was recently restored for the exhibition ‘The Inoperative Community’, Raven Row, London, 3 December 2015–14 February 2016, curated by Dan Kidner.

  17. ‘Kaposi’s Sarcoma’, NHS Choices, available at http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Kaposis-sarcoma (last accessed on 3 February 2016).

  18. S. Marshall, ‘Picturing Deviancy’, op. cit., p.32.

  19. Simply titled Kaposi’s sarcoma, the work is listed in Marshall’s videography but is currently unavailable.

  20. Pedagogue is a collaborative work made in collaboration with performance artist Neil Bartlett. Most recently, Pedagogue was shown at the exhibition ‘The Institute of Sexology’ at the Wellcome Collection (20 November 2014–20 September 2015). Ironically, the Wellcome Group was responsible for the development of the AZT drug against which Stuart Marshall campaigned during the latter part of his life.

  21. ‘Video Technology and Practice’, Serpentine Gallery, London, 20 March–25 April 1982. Marshall also discussed chromakey in an eponymous essay published in Screen (vol.20, no.1, Spring 1979, pp.109–19).

  22. S. Marshall, ‘Video Technology and Practice’, draft programme description, Stuart Marshall archive, British Artists’ Film & Video Study Collection, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

  23. L.U. Marks, Touch, op. cit., p.97.

  24. S. Marshall, ‘The Contemporary Political Use of Gay History: The Third Reich’, op. cit., p.68.