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Cathedral News

World AIDS Day, December 1

Posted: Thursday, November 10, 2011

In honor of World AIDS Day, Daniel Joshua Goldstein's Invisible Man will be available for viewing at Grace Cathedral from November 16 - December 4.  On December 1, our 7:30 a.m. Eucharist9 a.m. Morning Prayer, and 12:10 p.m. Eucharist will be held at the AIDS Interfaith Memorial Chapel.  The Rev. Elizabeth Welch, from Sojourn Chaplaincy at San Francisco General Hospital, will preside at the 12:10 p.m. Eucharist. Specials prayers will also be included in our 5:15 p.m. Evensong

To view two videos about this remarkable sculpture, click here.

A perspective from the artist, Daniel Joshua Goldstein

Invisible Man is a suspended sculpture made of 864 syringes each tipped with a red crystal bead. This cloud of arrows surrounds a negative space which, as the work rotates, reveals a human figure. As someone who lived through the devastating early years of AIDS in San Francisco, this is a theme I call "the presence of absence".

The piece was created for the 2010 International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria. One of the central topics of this conference was the spread of HIV among intravenous drug users in Eastern Europe. When someone is diagnosed with HIV/AIDS they experience all sorts of tests and treatments involving needles.  In this work the needles can be seen as symbols of menace and danger aimed at the figure or as symbols of hope, like rays of light radiating into the world.  Art is a powerful way to make AIDS emotionally, physically and spiritually real to people who know it as something that happens to someone else far away. For those living with HIV, art can be an acknowledgement of what we live with. It can also be a celebration of the human experience in the face of incredible adversity.

- Daniel Joshua Goldstein

A perspective from the Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw, Dean

This remarkable installation, Invisible Man, is the most recent example of Grace Cathedral’s  long engagement with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The first religious conference on HIV/AIDS in the world was held in this Cathedral in March, 1987. Sections of the NAMES Project’s AIDS Memorial Quilt have been displayed in the Cathedral since 1988. The AIDS Memorial Interfaith Chapel was dedicated on World AIDS Day, December 1, 1995. Inside the Chapel is the beautiful triptych, The Life of Christ, the last work completed by Keith Haring before he died of AIDS in 1990. In the thirty-year course of the epidemic, almost 200 members of the Cathedral’s congregation and clergy have died of AIDS.

In writing about this piece, the artist, Daniel Goldstein, speaks of “the presence of absence”.  In this way, Invisible Man has resonances with what is known as apophatic theology in the Christian tradition. The apophatic tradition – ironically, in the context of AIDS, called "negative" theology or the via negativa – suggests that we can apprehend God only by not apprehending God. God is to be affirmed as the cause of everything, and yet no affirmation is adequate for God. It is only by these paradoxes that we can go beyond our narrow, inadequate, all-too-human frames of reference for God, and see absence as an indication of presence.

When I look at this sculpture and see the 'person’ created by the space at the center of the needles, I think of the final lines of the original ending of the Gospel of Mark (about halfway through the last chapter as we know it now.) There is no body in the tomb – and Jesus makes no resurrection appearance. It is only the absence of the body that tells us that something extraordinary has happened. That original ending of Mark’s gospel is not triumphal: Hope and faith are suggested by absence, and we can fear or rejoice.

And so with this art piece: the absence of an actual body reminds us of all those lost to AIDS, and yet that bodily shape at the center reminds us of the actual human bodies that suffer, live and die with hope and faith.

- The Very Rev. Dr. Jane Shaw

This video (silent) shows Invisible Man displayed in the cathedral.

This video provides on overview of the artist's thoughts on Invisible Man.

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