Animals, Touch, and Books: Surface Matters in the HIV/AIDS Archive

Arriola, Aimar Olabarria. 2020. Animals, Touch, and Books: Surface Matters in the HIV/AIDS Archive. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This project considers lesser-known, often overlooked cultural responses to HIV/AIDS. Almost four decades after its onset, the HIV/AIDS crisis continues to be a global phenomenon with biomedical, economic, and cultural implications. However, much of the scholarly work done as part of the ongoing ‘AIDS Crisis Revisitation’ has been dominated by cultural productions about HIV/AIDS in, mainly, the US; in contrast, the literature has systematically ignored other realities. My project responds to this urgent situation by analysing and creatively discussing selected case studies from ‘the South’, with a focus on Chile and Spain, two countries with mirroring contexts in terms of their respective political and cultural trajectories. As a specific viewpoint or critical approach to the HIV/AIDS archive, the project resorts to the notion of ‘surface’ as a driving concept. In this study surface comes to represent two things: material surface and the method of analysis known as ‘surface reading’. Central to my project is questioning the ideas of ‘a crisis’ and ‘an AIDS’ crisis. This is a task that requires a creative dialogue between different epistemic/ethical positions, a dialogue where ‘the human’ is ethically imbricated with other beings, both living and non-living, organic and non-organic. Methodologically, the project consists of two components: a theoretical dissertation and a practical, collaborative curatorial project. The dissertation is divided into three chapters, each focusing on an overlooked problematic in the AIDS archive –non-human animals, touch, and the book-object; the three lie in conceptual proximity in their figuration as surface. Among other formalizations, including seminars, workshops, and publications, the practical component has been staged three times as an exhibition in the course of the production of the thesis. Altogether, the thesis expands existing work on the HIV/AIDS archive through geography and language, culture and representation.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


HIV/AIDS, AIDS crisis revisitation, archive, surface, surface reading, curating, post-humanism, animals, touch, books.

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


29 February 2020

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

22 Apr 2020 14:12

Last Modified:

10 Jun 2021 20:40


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