Silence=Death Project

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A pink triangle against a black backdrop with the words 'Silence=Death' representing an advertisement for The Silence = Death Project used by permission by ACT-UP, The AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power. Colour lithograph, 1987.

The Silence=Death Project, best known for its iconic political poster,[1] was the work of a six-person collective in New York City: Avram Finkelstein, Brian Howard, Oliver Johnston, Charles Kreloff, Chris Lione, and Jorge Soccarás.[2]


Avram Finkelstein founded the Silence=Death project in 1987 with Jorge Socarras, Chris Lione, Charles Kreloff, Oliver Johnston, and Brian Howard during the AIDS crisis as a consciousness-raising group,[3] and as a means of mutual support.[4] The content of their discussions quickly turned political. Inspired by posters made by the Art Workers Coalition and the Guerrilla Girls, the group decided to create their own poster to be wheatpasted around New York City. Rejecting any photographic image as necessarily exclusionary, the group decided to use more abstract language in an attempt to reach multiple audiences.[5] They created the Silence=Death poster using the title phrase and a pink triangle, known from its association with the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.[6][7]

ACT UP[edit]

The Silence=Death poster was also used by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) as a central image in their activist campaign against the AIDS epidemic.[8] Because of ACT UP's advocacy, the pink triangle remains synonymous with AIDS activism. In 2017, the image was reinstalled in the windows of the Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art[9] with a new line at the bottom: "Be Vigilant. Refuse. Resist."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Force, Thessaly La; Lescaze, Zoë; Hass, Nancy; Miller, M. H. (2020-10-15). "The 25 Most Influential Works of American Protest Art Since World War II". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Emmerman, James (July 13, 2016). "After Orlando, the Iconic Silence = Death Image Is Back. Meet One of the Artists Who Created It". Slate.
  3. ^ Kerr, Theodore (June 20, 2017). "How Six NYC Activists Changed History With 'Silence = Death'". Village Voice.
  4. ^ "Brooklyn Museum". Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  5. ^ Finkelstein, Avram (November 22, 2013). "Silence Equals Death Poster". New York Public Library.
  6. ^ "Brooklyn Museum". Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  7. ^ "Silence=Death". ACT UP.
  8. ^ "Brooklyn Museum". Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  9. ^ "FOUND: Queer Archaeology; Queer Abstraction". Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. Archived from the original on 2012-07-09. Retrieved June 22, 2017.