"LIFE WITH VIRUS": Teiji Furuhashi in New York

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A two-part program about the work and activism of Teiji Furuhashi and the performance collective Dumb Type.

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Dumb Type, S/N available to stream through May 9

Please RSVP to receive the screening link

For our eighth International Curatorial Residency with Japanese curator Sho Akita, Visual AIDS presents an online conversation about the work and activism of Japanese artist Teiji Furuhashi (1960–1995), a founding member of the performance collective Dumb Type and an outspoken AIDS activist in Japan.

This program brings together friends of Teiji Furuhashi from Japan and the US to shed light on the cultural exchange that he facilitated between New York and Kyoto. Participants include the renowned artist and sex worker advocate Bubu de la Madeleine, composer Toru Yamanaka (aka DJ Lala), and the curator Barbara London, who acquired Furuhashi’s work for the Museum of Modern Art. Moderated by Sho Akita.


From April 26 to May 9, Visual AIDS will host a special online presentation of Dumb Type's 1994 performance S/N, a provocative response to the AIDS crisis in Japan. A private screening link for the 90 minute video will be emailed to attendees who RSVP for this event. This is the first time that documentation of S/N has been presented online.

Founded in 1984 by fifteen art students working in Kyoto and Osaka, Dumb Type’s experimental theater projects combine dance and performance with ambitious multimedia installations. Teiji Furuhashi, a central figure in the group, visited New York frequently, performing in drag at the Pyramid Club alongside artists like John Kelly and Lypsinka. He brought the ethos of East Village nightlife to Kyoto, starting a monthly drag party called “Diamonds Are Forever” that continues to this day.

Inspired in part by the AIDS activism he encountered in New York, Furuhashi became a leading voice in Japanese AIDS activism. In 1992, after spending several months in New York, Furuhashi returned to Kyoto and sent a letter to his friends and collaborators titled "LIFE WITH VIRUS," sharing his HIV status and reflecting on the stigma and morality surrounding AIDS. The letter prompted Dumb Type to develop a major new performance responding to the AIDS crisis in Japan. Titled S/N, the performance used the the notion of a “signal to noise” ratio as a structuring metaphor, challenging Japan’s silence about AIDS with explicit discussion of gay identity, stigma, sex work, and border politics. Incorporating a two-level set, elaborate choreography, live video, and projection, the performance was critically acclaimed and toured to more than twenty cities around the world.

Access Note: The conversation will include live, consecutive interpretation in both English and Japanese. Live captioning will also be available in English.

Participant Biographies

Barbara London is a New York-based curator and writer, who founded the video-media exhibition and collection programs at The Museum of Modern Art, where she worked between 1973 and 2013. Her recent projects include the podcast series Barbara London Calling, the book Video Art/The First Fifty Years (Phaidon: 2020), and the exhibition “Seeing Sound” (Independent Curators International), 2021-2024. London was the first to integrate the Internet as part of curatorial practice, with Stir-fry (1994); Internyet (1998); and (1999.) She organized one-person shows with such media mavericks as Laurie Anderson, Peter Campus, Teiji Furuhashi, Gary Hill, Joan Jonas, Shigeko Kubota, Nam June Paik, Song Dong, Steina Vasulka, Bill Viola, and Zhang Peili. Her thematic exhibitions at MoMA included Soundings: A Contemporary Score (2013); Looking at Music (2009); Video Spaces (1995); Music Video: the Industry and Its Fringes (1985); and Video from Tokyo to Fukui and Kyoto (1979). London’s writing has appeared in numerous catalogs and publications, including ArtForum, Flash Art, Yishu, Leonardo, Art Asia Pacific, Art in America, Millennium, Modern Painter, and the Guardian.

Bubu de la Madeleine is a contemporary artist, drag queen, and former sex worker. From 1986 to 1991, Bubu worked as a high school art teacher. In 1992, after Teiji Furuhashi came out as HIV positive, she committed herself to advocacy for people living with HIV and AIDS, sex workers, women, sexual minorities, and health and human rights more broadly. She co-founded the AIDS Poster Project (APP) in 1992 and Sex Work and Sexual Health (SWASH) in 1999. From 1994 to 1996, she toured with Dumb Type and performed S/N in nineteen cities across the world. She continues to work as a solo artist and collaboratively, producing paintings, moving images, performances, and writing.

Toru Yamanaka a.k.a. DJ Lala is a composer, producer, and DJ. He was a founding member of the multimedia performance collective Dumb Type and is a composer and sound designer. His recent projects include Kyota Takahashi's Kofukuji-temple light-up event (2018), Dumb Type’s 2020 (2020, Kyoto; premiered as video recording) and Ong Keng Sen x Wei Hai-min: A Thousand Stages, Yet I Have Never Quite Lived (2021, Taiwan). Every month, Yamanaka organizes and deejays at the legendary drag queen party “Diamonds Are Forever” at Kyoto's Club Metro.

This program is organized with Japanese curator Sho Akita as part of Visual AIDS’ International Curatorial Residency program. During his virtual residency, Sho will research Furuhashi’s time in New York, building an archive of the creative exchange that Furuhashi facilitated between Japan and the United States. Read more about Sho's research on the Visual AIDS blog.

Visual AIDS’ curatorial residency is supported in part by a grant from the Japan Foundation, New York. Visual AIDS thanks Dumb Type and Normal Screen for making this project possible.

Image: Performance documentation of Dumb Type's "S/N" (1994) with Teiji Furuhashi and Bubu de la Madeleine. Photo: Kazuo Fukunaga

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