Introduction for Gregg Bordowitz

Gregg Bordowitz writes “Everything is an illusion, even self-reflection.”

Gregg Bordowitz writes “I want to be a poet of decay.”

Gregg Bordowitz writes “Identity is a form of repetition.”

To let a Bordowitz statement, stripped of its prose, ring in the air is similar to how the most pressing issues jut out from the state of the union address and get forced in to a loud pause, encased in clapping support, as an immediate revelation and affirmation. These statements that are the most pressing, venture out from the speech in singular import, teetering on that ledge of brevity that becomes a quotable statement, of which Bordowitz writes an uncanny plenty of. One might argue all writers can be quoted; that the quote is when the writer is gone and it is the reader, or the introducer, who does the quoting. But Bordowitz’s writing is crafted for quoting because of its intrinsic preoccupations with poetry. Bordowitz writes a poetry one arrives at after writing daily. Of always starting over. Of questioning the last question.

Bordowitz’s state of the union from the end of the 20st century: “Today I am sitting here writing myself out of the categories I reduced myself to…I adopted a set of aesthetic principles to which I was, until recently, committed: reduce the category of beauty to efficacy, the category of form to function, the category of audience to community.” This quote comes from a paragraph in “Dense Moments,” from Bordowitz’s collected writings, The AIDS Crisis is Ridiculous, where he tells his narrative of catapulting from painting as a medium to videomaking, which was instantly essayistic, collaborative documenting the movement to fight for access to HIV/AIDS research and medicine.

“Everything is an illusion, even self-reflection” comes from Bordowitz’s chronicle of the art group General Ideas’ Imagevirus, a multi-part installation, sculpture, faux-advertising poster of the acronym AIDS. The letters are stacked on each other in a slanting grid to riff on the LOVE sculpture by Robert Indiana. In Imagevirus, the book, Bordowitz weaves the story of the art project with his history as an activist, artist, and person living with AIDS. The most fascinating point of entry to this story is how Imagevirus, when it was made, in the late 80s, caused a great deal of ambivalence among ACT-UP activists like Bordowitz but how writing about the work 20 years later, his reactions and insights to it have changed. By outlining why Imagevirus hit on so many buttons, Bordowitz unravels the fictions and pressures of oppositional thinking in the framework of pitting art and activism against each other.

A quote lives a double life in and outside its contexts. Not unlike the life inside and outside a category, Bordowitz’s details specific maneuverings around his own context. The boundaries between bodies stop. Or begin. I feel the urge to deep-sea dive into more and more context around his writing. And then there is how Bordowitz’s self reflection wraps me up in my own self-reflection, a distinct quality of his writing; there is room to think inside whatever Bordowitz writes. “The first person singular shares the same fate as the skyscraper.” Bordowitz is fond of the conflict from which to begin, “I wish to represent many, in the singular I cannot speak.” He gives us permission to be intense. “Emotions are collectively produced, they are not produced by ourselves alone.” “Do we choose our questions?” How can we tell a story more than once and see how it changes?