The stigma around HIV and AIDS is something that prevails, even in 2023. Misinformation and moral judgements have led to a clouded smoke over conversations surrounding the virus, leaving many unaware of its rich history. Mailbox laid bare this deep history with their installation of part of an exhibition called “Cover Up”, a community arts project led by Birmingham AIDS and HIV Memorial designer, Garry Jones.
Having lived with his own experience of the AIDS epidemic, Garry was inspired to start the project after watching the hit Channel 4 period drama ‘It’s a Sin’ which details the story of individuals who grew up in the shadow of the AIDS virus. Through a remarkable visual display, the “Cover Up” project celebrates, remembers, and educates people about the historic moments and memories created in the 40 years since the first HIV diagnosis in the UK. The exhibition provides a dedicatory space for people to remember those who lost their lives to HIV and to reflect.
The “Cover Up” exhibition was displayed on Level 3 of Mailbox from the 27th March – 19th April. The exhibition included 30 quilts, each physically capturing the individual and unique stories of those impacted by the virus. Each quilt panel provides a ‘face’ to a mass of unknown people who were often represented as mere statistics.
The panels exhibited were previously used in the World AIDS Day procession ahead of Birmingham’s new AIDS and HIV Memorial and so brought a piece of Birmingham’s own recent history to Mailbox.