Shanti Avirgan, Beat Goes On, 2019

For the thirtieth annual Day With(out) Art on December 1, 2019, Visual AIDS presented STILL BEGINNING, a program of seven newly commissioned videos responding to the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic by Shanti Avirgan, Nguyen Tan Hoang, Carl George, Viva Ruiz, Iman Shervington, Jack Waters/Victor F.M. Torres, and Derrick Woods-Morrow. Recalling Gregg Bordowitz’s reminder that “THE AIDS CRISIS IS STILL BEGINNING,” the video program resists narratives of resolution or conclusion, considering the continued urgency of HIV/AIDS in the contemporary moment while revisiting resonant cultural histories from the past three decades. STILL BEGINNING screened at 110 venues worldwide, premiering at the Whitney Museum of American Art on December 1, with additional marquee screenings at the Brooklyn Museum in collaboration with The Studio Museum in Harlem, as well as the MCA Chicago and MOCA LA.

Beat Goes On is an impressionistic portrait of the activist Keith Cylar (1958–2004), co-founder of Housing Works and a central figure in the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP) NY. Cylar spoke clearly, frequently and with moral force about the struggles of people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City, many of whom were impoverished and struggling with multiple social and medical problems. His openness about his own drug use and the centrality of the fight against the criminalization of drugs for AIDS activism make Cylar's legacy especially resonant and relevant at this time. A fellow harm reduction activist recalls how “Keith moved from mixing with the government, to threatening the government, to beating the government—all in the space of five minutes.” By resurfacing and weaving together archival media of Cylar's own words and actions, this video will endeavor to convey—in the space of about five minutes—some of the personal charisma, political savvy and fearlessness that characterized Cylar's advocacy.

Commissioned by Visual AIDS for STILL BEGINNING: The 30th Annual Day With(out) Art

Shanti Avirgan is a documentary producer and archival researcher who has worked on several films related to the AIDS crisis including Pills Profits Protest (2004); Sex in an Epidemic (2009); Larry Kramer in Love & Anger (2015); 5B (2019) and a forthcoming film about the photographer Peter Hujar. She was a producer for National Geographic's climate change TV series Years of Living Dangerously and associate producer for the feature documentaries The Yes Men Are Revolting (2014) and Life, Animated (2016). Shanti is currently producing Jean Carlomusto's new film Esther Newton Made Me Gay (2020) and working as an archival producer for a new Netflix comedy series and a documentary series for HBO.