In the lead up to the opening of the New York City AIDS MemorialSurface spoke with notable cultural figures who experienced the height of the crisis. Jenny Holzer turned excerpts from those interviews into a new series of artworks projected on the city's buildings.

Jeannette Montgomery Barron
Photographer

There was a rumor that there was a “gay cancer.” Nobody knew what it was, and there was complete panic. What are we going to do? What is this? Why are we getting this? And then you would see a man with Kaposi’s sarcoma, the spots, and this look in their eyes, that they knew there was no hope, absolutely no hope. It was like they’d seen hell or they’re in hell. It was like walking into a nightmare. We really knew hell. AIDS had spread and some people wouldn’t touch or hug a sick person, and that’s exactly what people needed, to be hugged and loved. I think about all those people, their families, and their partners. It was horrible that somebody would be in the hospital and their partner wasn’t able to be there, because they weren’t married or the family wasn’t allowing the partner to be there at the very end because they were in denial about the son being gay.

View the full collaboration here: Reflecting on AIDS: Jenny Holzer in Collaboration with Surface

Artwork by Jenny Holzer
©2016 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Photos: Dani Vernon