Exhibit Discovery – S.O.S

Stop by Hub Central at the Discovery Building to view artist Conley Clark’s S.O.S piece this Summer 2019!
S.O.S visually draws attention to human health through the lens of HIV, AIDS and LGBTQ+ Community.

Exhibit runs through August 2019.

Note from the artist:

“S.O.S.” is my response to a conversation that recently took place between a friend and myself, where she falsely assumed people living with HIV and AIDS, today, are no longer dying from AIDS related complications.

As a queer person and member of the LGBTQ+ community, who has an inseparable emotional connection with the timeline of the AIDS epidemic, I was obviously troubled by her false belief that somehow the severity of HIV and AIDS has been lessened because of the advancement in treatment and medicine. Her comment made me realize that perhaps the gravity of AIDS is being forgotten about along with the thousands of lives it takes every day. In one fell swoop, she erased the existence and experiences of the brave individuals struggling to find reasonable means to stay alive.

Despite improved efforts to combat HIV infection, there are still too many people who live with HIV or are at risk. Opposite of what my friend said, many of these individuals do not have access to affordable medication and treatment. And in 2016, roughly 16,000 people in the United States alone died from causes related to or directly attributed to HIV diagnoses. Just fewer than 1,000,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses globally in 2017 according to HIV.gov.

And as of today, there is still no cure.

“S.O.S.” is a piece that visually draws attention to this issue. Sitting on two tables are two identical lamps. Quiet and unobtrusive, they sit directly in front of a window. No matter at the street level or above ground, they exist primarily as disregarded objects, though they stand strongly upright, as if desiring to be seen by anyone willing to stop and look. Their cold whiteness draws reference to the medical and sterile, alluding to the disinfected settings of hospitals and clinics. But even further, it suggests death itself. Memorializing those who have died from HIV and AIDS, “S.O.S.” emits a series of bold pink signals every thirty minutes. The two lamps will adopt the International Morse Code distress signal of S.O.S in unison: three short dashes, followed by two long dashes, and three short dashes again (e.g., “…–…”). S.O.S. is used as a start-of-message mark for transmissions requesting help when loss of life is imminent. As I mentioned earlier, the last statistic in 2016 reported an annual death of about 16,000 people in the United States. That makes roughly 44 deaths per day, and just shy of 2 an hour.

HIV and AIDS is still a crisis.
Due to the nature of the disease, those without access to treatment often battle bravely against a long fight, as the person they once were slowly wanes. Similarly, “S.O.S.” reemerges and vanishes throughout the day and into the night. Those who see it may recognize it as the distress signal it is, only to find it existing in some kind of limbo. Others may see it as enigmatic or as something that doesn’t concern them. And then again, some may never notice, nor know it ever existed at all. The two lamps, regardless of the consideration they receive, continue beating, sending out soundless signals for help of an emergency.

“Living with AIDS in this country is like living through a war that’s happening only for those people in the trenches … every time a shell explodes you look around to discover that you’ve lost more of your friends, but nobody else notices. It isn’t happening to them.” – Vito Russo

Meet the Artist:

Conley Clark
Clark is a multiple media artist, incorporating sculpture, photography, video, sound and performance to engage with issues concerning contemporary queer visual culture. He was born and raised in Cape Girardeau, Missouri and received his B.F.A. in Studio Art at Southeast Missouri State University in 2016, where he specialized in Sculpture. Currently, he is an M.F.A. candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.