A place to put things
By Aidan Cowling
30 November 2021 – 23 January 2022
A place to put things is an installation of green screen props that are used to situate archival materials related to sexual health education. The props are painted green in order to experiment with footage from online public archives. By layering multiple archival video streams, the materiality and meaning of sex ed footage becomes malleable. The set becomes a site that considers the histories, contexts and discussions that have shaped the strategies and delivery of sexual health curriculums in the recent past.
How has this material been used, embodied and instrumentalized?
How do we make sense of it with shifting understandings of sexual practices?
Sexual education has a history of defining what is considered healthy, thereby directing and orienting students towards particular ways of being. The installation considers how we are shaped by the ideas and materials that are within our reach, and that we orient ourselves in and around things that affirm our existence. But what happens when the ideas and materials that inform your sexual health don’t exist around you? These materials can be disorienting; an erasure of experience. Interrogating these materials reveals the limits of sexual health curriculums. The installation takes up the productive potential of getting lost, and asks if the experience of disorientation opens up space for thinking through sex and sexual health more expansively.
Aidan Cowling is an artist interested in how technology shapes contemporary experiences and understandings of desire, intimacy and power. He works with archival and online materials that reflect queer histories and creates videos and installations that explore how this material is understood. By stewarding material remnants of various collections, he assembles a usable past allowing us to examine historical archives to understand the possible failures of the present and how we might develop new modes of connection.