VIDEO REMAINS: Nostalgia, Technology, and Queer Archive Activism

A. Juhasz
2006 GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies  
Jhe 1992 videotape interview of my best friend, actor and East Village personality James Robert Lamb, had become for me a haunted and hated object. We shot it less than a year before he died of AIDS, and it served as an inadequate surrogate. The tape did not represent Jim-a sometimes go-go dancer, severalyear member of Charles Ludlam's off-Broadway Ridiculous Theatrical Company, and consummate performer-at his best or in his complexity. A fifty-five-minute interview cannot adequately represent
more » ... marvelous, mischievous life. And yet, I did have this video in my archive. Something of him, and that time, remained within its signals. After many years, the plastic cassette lured me back, forcing me to consider what changes and what lasts after death, across time, and because of videotape. I could use this remnant to revisit Jim's life and death, as well as that of AIDS activism and AIDS video activism. And when, in 2004, I succumbed, my process was more intuitive than for my previous work, which tends toward the analytic or polemic. I followed my dreams (often being visited by Jim at night), pored over old pictures and letters, and allowed myself to be led by freak circumstances. When Silverlake hairstylist Michael Anthony, who had never cut my hair before, initiated a conversation about AIDS in New York in the 1980s only an hour after I had agreed to videotape young gay men in the AIDS Project Los Angeles support group Mpowerment, I knew I must integrate them both into the piece. Using the mirror, I shot Michael cutting my hair while simultaneously performing oft-told tales of his friend and my namesake, Alexandra, a drag queen who died of AIDS in the mid-1980s; I shot hours of support group meetings where the gay boys of color at Mpowerment would GLQ 12:2 pp.319-328
doi:10.1215/10642684-12-2-319 fatcat:2wbjh5hszbfd5bnvpi4fjcbo3m