The Australian AIDS Memorial Quilt, of which this multi-panel quilt forms a part, is an evocative record of those who were lost to HIV, many of them in their 20s and 30s. The visual diversity of the panels is marked, capturing as they do the character and individuality of the person who died. In the 1980s and 1990s, at the onset of AIDS and in the following decade, societal attitudes were often homophobic. The Quilt records memories of those vibrant young people who faced their death in times of ignorance, often with no help, no friends (many had died already), family denial and discrimination. Some panels are anonymous, while many are now supported by documentation such as written descriptions by the maker, photographs and eulogies. As a result, the AIDS Quilt tells us a great deal about social change and changing attitudes to safe sex, gay culture and death in the late twentieth century in western societies.
The quilts are important "so there is a record of that person existing, whereas with a lot of people with AIDS, that (record) is not there. There's a whole generation of people - unless we tell their stories, they are not there." (interview with Libby Woodhams, Sydney Quilt Project Convenor 2010). In most western societies, mourning is a fairly private and restrained affair in which depths of emotion are kept out of the public eye. Given the prejudices surrounding the AIDS epidemic, one can understand how difficult it is for those who are mourning their AIDS victims to express their grief fully and openly. The AIDS Quilt is remarkable because it combined an opportunity to share in the mourning process with a celebration of the life of the deceased.
First diagnosed in 1981, HIV&AIDS is the major infectious epidemic of the late 20th century. The first Australian death from AIDS was recorded in Melbourne in 1983. Subsequently, public programs undertaken by community organisations and government departments in Australia have educated people about the disease and its transmission. The Australian AIDS Memorial Quilt Project, then comprising 35 panels, was formally launched in Sydney on 1 December 1988 (World AIDS Day), by Ita Buttrose, Chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on AIDS (NACAIDS). While the Quilt began as a memorial, it has become one of the nation's most valuable resources for promoting a compassionate and educational dialogue about AIDS within Australian communities. Its non-threatening nature and artistic and creative approach enables accessibility to the content and allows people from all walks of life to learn about the AIDS epidemic from its human side.
UK quilt website http://www.aidsquilt.org.uk/gallery.asp?quilt=2
Anni Turnbull, Curator - Design and Society, 2011