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Theo Gordon

Courtauld Institute of Art

Project Title: The AIDS War: The Art of Indexing the Dead, 1987-1996

Supervised by Prof. Mignon Nixon

The framing of the AIDS epidemic in the language and metaphors of war was commonplace in discourse of the late 1980s and early 1990s around the crisis in the United States. This thesis contends that the war metaphor has a deeper significance than merely a linguistic strategy, interpreting the AIDS crisis as a psychic state of war.

The conventional split in AIDS discourse between art of mourning and art of activism is troubled by this proposition. First examining photographic representation of people with AIDS in the 1980s in relation to the history of AIDS activism, the project then moves to consider artists that juxtapose themes of mourning and activism, conflict and AIDS, notably the work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

Research interests

  • modern American art
  • sexuality and queer culture
  • psychoanalysis
  • war discourse and American politics