The artists Johannes Müller and Philine Rinnert developed a musical theatre project titled “AIDS Follies” which explored the subject of AIDS and how it is perceived in society. The resulting “virus panorama”, as they called it, offered an alternative perspective to the conventional narratives and stereotypes related to HIV and its spread. Their project was inspired by the recent exoneration of the alleged “patient zero” Gaetan Dugas, a Canadian flight attendant who many had long believed to be the first person to spread HIV in the United States. Based on Gaetan Dugas, the project told the story of the virus – not that of the art scene of the 1980s, the “Africans” or the “homosexuals”, but rather a story that marked a much larger chapter in the history of our civilisation, one in which new colonial metropolises and the combination of poor hygiene and mandatory vaccinations played a central role.
Aesthetically, “AIDS Follies” embraced the tradition of the political cabaret of the queer pop culture of the 1980s. The composer Genoël von Lilienstern has created an original song cycle for the project. In composing this music, he incorporated footage and references to music which had some connection to the history of the virus: love songs from various decades, European and African arias, Cameroonian pop, colonial marches, porno sounds and the audio tracks of scientific educational films. In a succession of scenic and musical numbers, the musicians and performers condensed and amplified the information, theories and legends which have formed around the virus. The life story of one individual and the global cultural history of HIV have interwoven to create a “panorama” which followed the development of the virus back to its very beginning.
Artistic directors: Johannes Müller, Philine Rinnert
Composer: Genoël von Lilienstern
Video artist: Benjamin Krieg
Playwright: Kenny Fries (US)
Research consultants: Kenny Fries (US), Michael Worobey (US), Jacqueline M. Achkar (US)
Venues and Dates:
Sophiensaele, Berlin: 2018; Theater Rampe, Stuttgart: 2018; Brut, Vienna: 2018