Joseph Conlon's series of photographs, 101 Talismans for a Happy Death, will be on display at Aron Packer Gallery in memory of the Chicago-based artist and in concurrence with the Gay Games in Chicago. Conlon, who was HIV positive for over 20 years, created this work in the last five years of his life, which unfortunately came to an end in Autumn 2005.
The title of the piece suggests that Conlon's creations may be understood as talismans meant to aid in a confrontation with mortality. Dream-like photography and video depict murders, accidents, suicides, and sexual escapades gone fatally wrong. The images are campy yet beautiful, featuring saturated colors and stylized poses, a quality that counteracts the atmosphere of tragedy. The installation's repeated images, multiple monitors, and large-scale stills evoke a fragmented and compulsive reenactment of trauma in an effort to lessen its potency. The sound component, composed by Sally Station, also employs repetition, which compels the viewers' breath to adhere to its rhythm. In this way, the exhibit creates a space for the viewer to meditate on the cycle of life and death and to become aware of the sublime quality inherent in tragedy.