PRINT March 2003


FILMMAKER AND ACTIVIST Gregg Bordowitz’s passage through the 1980s mirrors the course of AIDS activism in that decade. From the very first ACT UP demonstration in New York to the triumphal storming of the FDA headquarters outside Washington, DC, he deployed his art in the battle against AIDS. Bordowitz leads off this two-issue series of personal chronicles of the decade, recounting his experiences as an activist and guerrilla filmmaker at the forefront of the fight.
Art does have the power to save lives, and it is this very power that must be recognized, fostered, and supported in every way possible.
—Douglas Crimp, introduction to AIDS: Cultural Analysis/Cultural Activism (MIT Press, 1988)


When Ronald Reagan was elected president, I was sixteen years old, living in Coram, Long Island. A smart faggy teen, I spent every possible minute drawing and painting in the art rooms of Longwood High School. I loved Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol. I listened to an eclectic mix of music, including Miles Davis, James Brown, and the Ramones. It was my girlfriend Michelle who introduced me to punk culture. She taught me everything I needed to know—where to get the music, where to shop for jewelry (any pet store), and how to cut my own hair without a mirror. Well, almost everything. My crush on one of Longwood’s art teachers led to the other defining friendship of my high school years. Mr. ——— instructed me in the ways of the gay world, even taking me into the city and showing me the leather shops and bookstores of the West Village. I always knew that the minute I turned eighteen

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