Tag Archives: red ribbon

How A Red Ribbon Conquered The World

Thirty years after the HIV virus was first documented, the red ribbon is the ubiquitous symbol of support for those living with the illness. Who thought of it and how did it get so big?

In the sparse surroundings of a former classroom on a spring day in 1991 – a decade after the rise of AIDS – a group of 12 artists gathered to discuss a new project.

They were photographers, painters, film makers and costume designers, and they sat around in the shared gallery space known as PS122 in New York’s East Village.

Within an hour or so of brainstorming, they had come up with a simple idea that later became one of the most recognised symbols of the decade – the red ribbon, worn to signify support for people with HIV/Aids.

“We wanted to make something that was self-replicating,” says Patrick O’Connell, who chaired the meeting. “It’s extremely simple, like Bauhaus but half a century later. You cut the ribbon 6-7 inches, loop it around your finger and pin it on. You can do it yourself.”

The ribbon was the latest project by Visual Aids, a New York arts organisation that raises awareness of HIV/Aids.

When they sat down in the shared gallery space of PS122 in May 1991, they wanted to get people talking about the illness that was decimating their professional and social network, in the face of public indifference and private shame.

People were dying without even telling their friends why they were sick, and the artists wanted a visual expression of compassion for people living with Aids and their carers.

“Even in New York, we were very aware of how many people couldn’t talk about it, or were oblivious, or were going through it themselves but ashamed to talk about it,” says photographer Allen Frame, who was also one of the 12. “We wanted to make people feeling isolated more supported and understood.”

Their inspiration came from the yellow ribbons tied on trees to denote support for the US military fighting in the Gulf War, he says. Pink and the rainbow colours were rejected because they were too closely associated with the gay community, and this was an illness that went well beyond.

“Red was something bold and visible. It symbolised passion, a heart and love.”

The shape had no significance but was easy to make.

It took two more meetings to refine the design and then they set to work on making the ribbons themselves, distributing them around the New York art scene and dropping them off at theatres.

Initially there was a text that went with it, to explain why they were being worn, although this was later dropped because it became superfluous.

A few weeks after that first meeting, the group sent a box of 3,000 ribbons to the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway, ahead of the Tony Awards for the theatre industry. Some of them were making ribbons and watching the televised event as actor Jeremy Irons, one of the presenters, came on to the stage wearing one.

“Within three days, the media finally figured it out and it snowballed. I started being contacted by people in Hollywood,” says O’Connell.

Demand increased to such a degree that supply needed to be outsourced, and Visual Aids used a charity working with homeless women to make the ribbons. They sent out 10,000 ribbons for one Oscars ceremony, and over the coming years they made about 1.5m.

Stars like Bette Midler and Richard Gere were not only wearing them, but openly discussing why it was important. A ribbon-sporting culture developed within the acting profession.

“It became trendy and sometimes I think celebrities felt blackmailed and thought they had to show up wearing a ribbon, which wasn’t the case,” says O’Connell. “We weren’t keeping count that way.”

The ribbons first crossed the Atlantic in large numbers on Easter Monday in 1992, when more than 100,000 ribbons were distributed at an Aids benefit concert in London’s Wembley Stadium for Freddie Mercury.

They also began to proliferate in mainstream American life. Schools and churches across the US touched by the illness started to contact Visual Aids for advice on how they could explain it to children and parishioners – the answer was to hold a ribbon-making event.

“This was a way to educate people in a non-combative way,” says O’Connell, who has a ribbon on every item of clothing. Direct action was still important, he says – campaigners occupied the Stock Exchange and tried to re-enact a funeral on the White House lawn – but the ribbon was a way to broaden the conversation.

One unforeseen consequence has been the number of awareness ribbons that have been adopted since – pink for breast cancer being the most well known.

The artists purposefully never trademarked it – the point of the project was to invite more people in, says O’Connell – which meant it could appear anywhere without Visual Aids’ permission or any payments. It even turned up on a US Post Office stamp.

But he and some of the other artists behind the concept believe the proliferation and merchandising of the ribbon – ornamental ribbons selling for $19.95 in department stores and red ribbon mugs – has commercialised and trivialised their idea.

In a spirit more in tune with the one envisaged by Visual Aids, the ribbon is replicated in many different forms for memorials on World Aids Day, and its symbolism no longer needs any explanation.

In the poorest parts of the world, ribbon production has been central to efforts to raise funds and change attitudes, says Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust in the UK.

Women’s collectives make ribbons and adorn them before selling them in their community.

“A number of people living with HIV really appreciate seeing other people wearing the red ribbon. They realise they’re not alone and recognise that the majority of people wearing them probably don’t have HIV themselves, and that sense of support and solidarity is very, very important.

“There has been some criticism, that it is only a symbol. But symbols are important, and the way in which the red ribbon was embraced by community activists, doctors and researchers is a unifying emblem in what is a very disparate epidemic.

“The brilliance of the artists was not copyrighting it. Making it freely available was a gift to the Aids community worldwide.”

Those 12 artists never worked together again as a group, but with the battle against the illness ongoing, their activism continues.

 

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A History of HIV & AIDS – 1991

As we prepare to enter our 25th year, we are reflecting on the global HIV events from the last three decades.  HIV has swept across the globe touching communities on every continent.  Here’s an introduction to some of the key moments in the early global history of HIV.  Catch up on the story using the ‘Recent Posts’ link to the right.

A decade after the first cases of Aids are reported in the US (1991), an estimated 10 million people are infected with HIV worldwide.

The Red Ribbon has become the international symbol of AIDS awareness and support, not only for those living with HIV, but for their families, friends and people who are fighting for equality and non-discrimination.

The Red Ribbon Project was created by the New York-based Visual AIDS Artists Caucus in 1991, the individuals on the project wished to remain anonymous but wished instead to credit the Visual AIDS Artists Caucus as a whole in the creation of the Red Ribbon Project.  They also wanted to ensure the image was copyright free, so that no individual or organization would profit from the use of the red ribbon as it’s ethos is for it to be used as a consciousness raising symbol, not as a commercial or trademark tool.

The artists who formed the Visual AIDS Artists Caucus wished to create a visual symbol to demonstrate compassion for people living with AIDS and their careers.  Inspired by the yellow ribbons honouring American soldiers serving in the Gulf war, the colour red was chosen for its, “connection to blood and the idea of passion — not only anger, but love, like a valentine.”

First worn publicly by Jeremy Irons at the 1991 Tony Awards the ribbon soon became renowned as an international symbol of AIDS awareness, becoming a politically correct fashion accessory on the lapels of celebrities.

Read: Why A Red Ribbon Means AIDS (BBC)

At the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert held at Wembley Stadium, London on Easter Sunday 1992, more than 100,000 red ribbons were distributed among the audience, with performers such as George Michael wearing one.  The Red Ribbon continues to be a powerful force in the fight to increase public awareness of HIV/AIDS and in the lobbying efforts to increase funding for AIDS services and research and LASS encourage you to wear yours every day!

To symbolize the United States’ commitment to combat the world AIDS epidemic, President George W. Bush’s administration began displaying a 28-foot AIDS Ribbon on the White House’s iconic North Portico on World AIDS Day 2007.  The display, now an annual tradition, quickly garnered attention, as it was the first banner, sign or symbol to prominently hang from the White House since Abraham Lincoln lived in the building.

HIV storyline in EastEnders

The largest peak in requests for HIV testing in the UK was observed in January 1991 when the character Mark Fowler, (of EastEnders), was diagnosed with HIV.  Mark was an original regular character in the BBC series starting February 1985.   Contracting HIV forced him to grow up fast and accept his responsibilities. He frequently found it difficult to accept the restrictions of the illness, which finally claimed his life in April 2004.

Mark initially kept his secret hidden from everyone.  However, as he and his friend, diane grow closer, he finally decides to tell her the truth about his HIV status in January 1991. He believes that he had come into contact with the virus through his girlfriend.  Eventually, Mark’s relationship with Diane never becomes serious, not for her at least.  She is a useful confidante however, and manages to persuade Mark to go for counselling at the Terrence Higgins Trust. (A real service you can access today, click this link for more information)!  Mark initially turns on his male counsellor, relaying all his bitterness at being a potential “AIDS victim”, but eventually feels the benefits of discussing his status.

During the summer, a study was published showing that HIV was transmitted much more easily through breast milk than had previously been thought but despite admitting that the news was discouraging , The World Health Organisation also said that women in developing countries should continue to breastfeed, as the threat to infant health from contaminated water was even greater than the threat from AIDS.

Freddie Mercury

Although the media was full of speculations about the state of Freddie Mercury’s health for a long time, he admitted to having the disease on 23rd November 1991.  Within 24 hours after this announcement, he had fallen into a coma and passed away.  He died of pneumonia in consequence of his HIV infection. He did not live to see the Olympic Games in 1992, which he composed the official anthem ‘Barcelona’ with opera singer Montserrat Caballé.

As one of the highest-profile victims of AIDS, Freddie Mercury’s death drew greater media awareness of the virus and started the fight to remove the stigma, discrimination and prejudice from a disease which could affect anyone.  A fight which, unfortunately continues today in 2012.

Magic Johnson

Magic Johnson, then an American professional basketball player who played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers publicly announces that he is HIV-positive.

After a physical before the 1991–92 NBA season, Johnson discovered that he had tested positive for HIV.  In a press conference held in November, 1991 he made a public announcement that he would retire immediately and stated that his wife Cookie and their unborn child did not have HIV, and that he would dedicate his life to “battle this deadly disease”. – Magic continues to advocate HIV awareness today.

By the end of 1991, around 450,000 AIDS cases had been reported but it was estimated that 10 million individuals had been infected with HIV.

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The Red Ribbon Dress 2011/2012 Project

Robert Fieldhouse of Baseline is calling for for contributors to The Red Ribbon Dress 2011/2012 Project

Celebrate yourself as a person living with HIV or commemorate the life of someone you have lost to AIDS.

HIV positive artist Mandy Webb is looking to create a dress made of red ribbons to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS this coming World AIDS Day.

Mandy is inviting people to send in a red ribbon attached to a 3×3 parcel tag with a dedication to the person you have lost or a celebratory statement about yourself.  All the ribbons will be used to create a dress which will be constantly displayed to raise awareness and may be worn by Mandy herself.

Send the ribbons and dedication cards to:
BASELINE Magazine 23 Anderton Park Road Moseley Birmingham B13 9BQ

For more information contact mandywebbb@yahoo.co.uk

Via Twitter

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How A Red Ribbon Conquered The World

Thirty years after the HIV virus was first documented, the red ribbon is the ubiquitous symbol of support for those living with the illness. Who thought of it and how did it get so big?

In the sparse surroundings of a former classroom on a spring day in 1991 – a decade after the rise of Aids – a group of 12 artists gathered to discuss a new project.

They were photographers, painters, film makers and costume designers, and they sat around in the shared gallery space known as PS122 in New York’s East Village.

Within an hour or so of brainstorming, they had come up with a simple idea that later became one of the most recognised symbols of the decade – the red ribbon, worn to signify support for people with HIV/Aids.

“We wanted to make something that was self-replicating,” says Patrick O’Connell, who chaired the meeting. “It’s extremely simple, like Bauhaus but half a century later. You cut the ribbon 6-7 inches, loop it around your finger and pin it on. You can do it yourself.”

The ribbon was the latest project by Visual Aids, a New York arts organisation that raises awareness of HIV/Aids.

When they sat down in the shared gallery space of PS122 in May 1991, they wanted to get people talking about the illness that was decimating their professional and social network, in the face of public indifference and private shame.

People were dying without even telling their friends why they were sick, and the artists wanted a visual expression of compassion for people living with Aids and their carers.

“Even in New York, we were very aware of how many people couldn’t talk about it, or were oblivious, or were going through it themselves but ashamed to talk about it,” says photographer Allen Frame, who was also one of the 12. “We wanted to make people feeling isolated more supported and understood.”

Their inspiration came from the yellow ribbons tied on trees to denote support for the US military fighting in the Gulf War, he says. Pink and the rainbow colours were rejected because they were too closely associated with the gay community, and this was an illness that went well beyond.

“Red was something bold and visible. It symbolised passion, a heart and love.”

The shape had no significance but was easy to make.

It took two more meetings to refine the design and then they set to work on making the ribbons themselves, distributing them around the New York art scene and dropping them off at theatres.

Initially there was a text that went with it, to explain why they were being worn, although this was later dropped because it became superfluous.

A few weeks after that first meeting, the group sent a box of 3,000 ribbons to the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway, ahead of the Tony Awards for the theatre industry. Some of them were making ribbons and watching the televised event as actor Jeremy Irons, one of the presenters, came on to the stage wearing one.

“Within three days, the media finally figured it out and it snowballed. I started being contacted by people in Hollywood,” says O’Connell.

Demand increased to such a degree that supply needed to be outsourced, and Visual Aids used a charity working with homeless women to make the ribbons. They sent out 10,000 ribbons for one Oscars ceremony, and over the coming years they made about 1.5m.

Stars like Bette Midler and Richard Gere were not only wearing them, but openly discussing why it was important. A ribbon-sporting culture developed within the acting profession.

“It became trendy and sometimes I think celebrities felt blackmailed and thought they had to show up wearing a ribbon, which wasn’t the case,” says O’Connell. “We weren’t keeping count that way.”

The ribbons first crossed the Atlantic in large numbers on Easter Monday in 1992, when more than 100,000 ribbons were distributed at an Aids benefit concert in London’s Wembley Stadium for Freddie Mercury.

They also began to proliferate in mainstream American life. Schools and churches across the US touched by the illness started to contact Visual Aids for advice on how they could explain it to children and parishioners – the answer was to hold a ribbon-making event.

“This was a way to educate people in a non-combative way,” says O’Connell, who has a ribbon on every item of clothing. Direct action was still important, he says – campaigners occupied the Stock Exchange and tried to re-enact a funeral on the White House lawn – but the ribbon was a way to broaden the conversation.

One unforeseen consequence has been the number of awareness ribbons that have been adopted since – pink for breast cancer being the most well known.

The artists purposefully never trademarked it – the point of the project was to invite more people in, says O’Connell – which meant it could appear anywhere without Visual Aids’ permission or any payments. It even turned up on a US Post Office stamp.

But he and some of the other artists behind the concept believe the proliferation and merchandising of the ribbon – ornamental ribbons selling for $19.95 in department stores and red ribbon mugs – has commercialised and trivialised their idea.

In a spirit more in tune with the one envisaged by Visual Aids, the ribbon is replicated in many different forms for memorials on World Aids Day, and its symbolism no longer needs any explanation.

In the poorest parts of the world, ribbon production has been central to efforts to raise funds and change attitudes, says Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust in the UK.

Women’s collectives make ribbons and adorn them before selling them in their community.

“A number of people living with HIV really appreciate seeing other people wearing the red ribbon. They realise they’re not alone and recognise that the majority of people wearing them probably don’t have HIV themselves, and that sense of support and solidarity is very, very important.

“There has been some criticism, that it is only a symbol. But symbols are important, and the way in which the red ribbon was embraced by community activists, doctors and researchers is a unifying emblem in what is a very disparate epidemic.

“The brilliance of the artists was not copyrighting it. Making it freely available was a gift to the Aids community worldwide.”

Those 12 artists never worked together again as a group, but with the battle against the illness ongoing, their activism continues.

Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-13597312

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