'The collective action Carrying came into being from a workshop conducted by Pepe Espaliú in Arteleku, San Sebastián, in 1992. In it, friends, artists and activists carried, on their arms-turned-crutches and taking it in correlative turns, Espaliú, who was HIV positive. Without ever touching the ground, the artist travelled through the streets of the city as his companions tossed flyers into the air: “An action in AIDS”, loaded with poetic symbology and fusing the popular religiousness of Holy Week in Andalusia, the recovery of 1970s happenings and activist struggle.
Carrying was conceived as a “social sculpture”, open to be repeated by other collectives anywhere providing the blueprint and formal and visual characteristics of the project were respected. The said repetition fulfils the aim of disseminating an act of solidarity with people affected by AIDS. On 1 December of the same year, World AIDS Day, the Museo Reina Sofía organised the only repetition with Espaliú before his death, forming a so-called The Carrying Society, made up of artists, friends of Espaliú and institutions such as the Museo, which promoted the act. The chosen route around Madrid’s streets was loaded with symbology and sought to condemn the inertia of new democratic institutions regarding those suffering such pain. It started from the Congress of Deputies, stopped at the Ministry of Health and ended in the Museo building, a former hospital. Despite the intimate nature of the San Sebastián “sculpture”, the Madrid Carrying featured the participation of well-known figures from culture and politics, stoking significant media interest and, in the process, granting visibility to the art action and activist struggle, and even seeping into the most conservative sectors of society.
For this participatory act, Espaliú designed a T-shirt and silver pin to sell with the intention of raising funds for associations working to care for the terminally ill, such as BASIDA. Moreover, the practice of artistic actions with a charity-based intent was repeated in numerous other contexts across the decade, for instance in the Hucha Elizabeth Taylor (The Elizabeth Taylor Money Box), designed by Toni Socias in 1992.
The demands of different organisations linked to the fight against AIDS and social awareness around the disease, at that time bordering on a death sentence, were large in number throughout the nineties in Spain, particularly in Madrid. Prominent in this respect were the collectives Radical Gai and LSD, which drew significant attention to their protests with prolific activism based on different avenues of expression, such as actions in public space, the creation of strong social ties and the use of printed mediums. Today, many of these materials make up the so-called Queer Archive? conserved in the Museo, a selection of which are exhibited in the show.