Gran Fury

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This article is about the activist group. For the automobile, see Plymouth Gran Fury.

Gran Fury was an activist/artist collective that came together in 1988. Referencing both the specific Plymouth model used by the New York Police Department and their anger about the government's response, or lack thereof, to the AIDS pandemic, Gran Fury acted as ACT UP's (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) unofficial propaganda ministry, creating work that used the same strategies as advertising to reach a wider audience.[1]

"Let the Record Show" and Formation of the Collective[edit]

In July 1987, William Olander, an ACT UP member and curator of the New Museum in New York City, invited ACT UP to create an installation in the museum's window. Entitled "Let the Record Show," the work featured cardboard silhouettes of six public figures—televangelist Jerry Falwell, columnist William Buckley, US Senator Jesse Helms, Cory Servaas of the Presidential AIDS Commission, an anonymous surgeon, and President Ronald Reagan—posited as AIDS criminals and set against a mural-sized photograph of the Nuremberg trials. Concrete slabs positioned under each figure offered evidence of their crimes, from misrepresentations of AIDS to ignoring the issue altogether as in the case of Reagan's notorious public silence, in the form of personal quotes. A neon SILENCE=DEATH symbol crowned the display, with its pink triangle appropriated from the Nazi marker for gay men imprisoned at death camps furthering the analogy between the AIDS crisis and the Holocaust.[2] Over a dozen members of the ad hoc committee responsible for "Let the Record Show" decided to continue working together as a collective. Gran Fury was initially an open group and attracted a fluctuating membership, counting among its ranks a film-maker, nurse, hairdresser, costume designer, as well as artists. It later became autonomous from ACT UP and decided to close its membership because of frustrations with having to backtrack and regroup for new members every meeting.[3]

Practicing Art/Activism[edit]

The collective aimed to push various individuals such as Ronald Reagan, New York Mayor at the time Ed Koch, and John Cardinal O'Connor to address the AIDS pandemic in a more practical, open way, as well as to inform the public on the importance of safer sex and clean needles. When asked about their approach of their work, Gran Fury said: “We want the art world to recognize that collective direct action will bring an end to the AIDS crisis. . . . Whenever we can, we steer the art world projects into public spaces so that we can address audiences other than museum-going audiences or the readership of art magazines.” [4] By the early and mid-1990s the group had found it hard to make simple works surrounding the AIDS issue, and had starting using more text which had made it hard for the group to shock and relay their messages as effectively as before. They also found the issue much more complex and finally, in 1994, after the death of member and close friend Mark Simpson, the group disbanded. Mark died of AIDS on November 10, 1996


  1. ^ Crimp, Douglas (1990), AIDS Demo Graphics, Seattle: Bay Press, ISBN 978-0-941920-16-2 
  2. ^ Meyer, Richard (1995). Nina Felshin, ed. This is to Enrage You: Gran Fury and the Graphics of AIDS Activism. Seattle: Bay Press. pp. 63–64. ISBN 0-941920-29-1. 
  3. ^ Crimp, Douglas (2003). "Gran Fury Talks to Douglas Crimp". Artforum. 
  4. ^ Gober, Robert, BOMB Magazine Winter, 1991. Retrieved on May 31, 2013.

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