30 Years/30 Lives: Documenting a Pandemic
Photographs by Kimberly Vrudny
Dates of Exhibit: January – March 2011
As the world community approaches the thirtieth year of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, “30 Years / 30 Lives” aims to recalibrate our vision by introducing viewers to thirty individuals in the United States, South Africa, Thailand, and Mexico whose lives have intersected in some way with HIV/AIDS, whether through care for or loss of a loved one, engagement in humanitarian response, or acquisition of an infection directly.
The project aspires to raise awareness about the structural dimension of HIV/AIDS in order to challenge commonly held assumptions about who is affected, and to encourage a just and compassionate response to what has been called the worst human rights disaster in history. By highlighting the work of ten organizations responding to socio-economic issues the pandemic puts into sharp relief, “30/30” documents the structural dimensions of HIV/AIDS, exploring how the virus proliferates when the public is complacent, content to tolerate:
“30/30” unveils the disastrous conclusions of the dominant Christian paradigm in relation to HIV/AIDS and the bankruptcy of seeing it solely as a problem to be solved by the transformation of individual behaviors by lifting up the social dimensions of the HIV/AIDS pandemic through the lived experiences of thirty individuals who are sharing their portraits and journal responses with the public. The theological dimension of the project invites viewers to imagine a shift to collective accountability in the face of such crises in public health as the HIV/AIDS pandemic by considering such theological themes as imago Dei, lament, the prophetic voice, storytelling, incarnation, forgiveness, compassion, theodicy, grace, and hope.
Ultimately, the intention of “30 Years / 30 Lives” is to invite people to pause, to recognize the inherent dignity of every human life,and to recognize that no one deserves HIV/AIDS. The aim of the exhibit is to promote a vision of beauty, trusting the Spirit to move us to envision a world where the world's great abundance meets humanity's deep need. “30/30” aspires for us to see beauty, that we might learn to see beautifully—and, upon truly seeing, to live justly and compassionately.
“30 Years / 30 Lives” extends an invitation for HIV-negative and -positive, alike, to turn—to face one another, to extend grace to one another, and to embrace one another as God's beloved.
Kimberly Vrudny is a systematic theologian at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she also serves as founding project director for HIV/AIDS initiatives through the office of service learning. She has published books and articles in the area of theological aesthetics and the arts, emphasizing works that treat social justice issues, including “Spirit Standing Still: Documenting Beauty in Photography,” in Arts, Theology, and the Church: New Intersections, Wilson Yates and Kimberly Vrudny, eds. (Pilgrim Press, 2005).
The project is funded in part by the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota; the Society for the Arts in Religious and Theological Studies; the Center for Arts, Religion, and Education, an affiliate of the Graduate Theological Union; the Faculty Development Office at the University of St. Thomas; and the Luann Dummer Center for Women at the University of St. Thomas.
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