Primary Source Descriptions

Michel Foucault’s panel lies on Block 180 of the NAMES Project AIDS quilt, located in the middle left of the block. The AIDS Quilt was started in 1987 by activist Cleve Jones in San Francisco, California. Its purpose was to honor and memorialize those who had died of HIV / AIDS. In that time, many funeral homes refused to take clients who had died of AIDS. The AIDS Quilt provided an alternative opportunity for those to mourn. For this reason, the panels are generally three feet by six, indicating the size of the average human grave. The ninety thousand panels now on the Quilt represent approximately a fifth of American victims of the disease. The project has increased awareness of the disease, mitigated the ostracism of victims and their families, and raised millions of dollars in funding for research on HIV.

The panel itself is simplistic in its design. The base is light tan in color. All text on the panel seems to be written in black permanent marker. The top half of the panel is reserved for the name Michel Foucault written in large font. The initials M and F are bolded and written in a manner which seems to be different from the remainder of the panel. Underneath is written a quote in all capital lettering – “WHERE THERE IS POWER, THERE IS RESISTANCE… A PLURALITY OF RESISTANCES… SPREAD OVER TIME AND SPACE… AND IT IS DOUBTLESS THE STRATEGIC CODIFICATION OF THESE POINTS OF RESISTANCE THAT MAKES A REVOLUTION POSSIBLE.” This quote comes from a work he published, The History of Sexuality. Foucault was a French philosopher and social theorist. In his work, he argued that knowledge and power are used to control people. He himself preferred to consider his work a history of modernity. This is made clear by the simplicity of the panel. It makes no pretentious assertions or claims to knowledge or power. Instead, it seems as an equal in the milieu of panels on the quilt. A person with his accomplishments could reasonably list them all in a flashy manner, but the designer of the panel understood Foucault’s philosophies and demurred.

The design of the panel invites curiosity into the life of Michel Foucault. The obvious question when one first sees is “Who wrote this quote and what does it represent?” A quick search provides a substantial amount of information. It is easy to learn that he is not an average person. For example, the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy claims that he is “the author most frequently cited in the humanities in general” throughout “the first decade of the 21st century.” His ideas were not, however, widely accepted in the philosophical community, as he considered philosophy inextricably bound to history – a position starkly in opposition to convention at the time. The panel serves to attract interest to Foucault with its unassuming style and interesting quote and let viewers’ future research show the rest. Unlike most other panels, it does not immediately display the subject’s life and interests. In essence, it is a gateway to other, secondary, sources on Michel Foucault.

 


PSD 2

Gary Moonert’s panel of the AIDS quilt is on the top left of Block 001 of the NAMES Project AIDS Quilt. Its base is made of orange cloth, with pink lettering and several personal effects attached. The lettering spells out in seven lines “Gary Moonert President Castro Lions International San Francisco California.” The text is written obliquely, slanted towards the upper right corner of the panel. It takes up approximately two-thirds of the panel. It is likely that this was done for space. Interestingly, the ‘N’ in President is flipped upside-down, unlike any other letter used. The lettering displays a considerable amount of wear, and the kerning on the letters is not perfect. It is clear that this was likely not made by a professional quilter, but rather family, friends, or other members of the Castro Lions International. From the panel, the Castro Lions seem to be an activist club. The vest is attached to the bottom right of the panel. It is gold in color with purple trim. The text is also written in purple. It reads “Castro Lions” on the top side in a half-circle from the center-left to the top-center all the way to the center-right. Just below, in a straight line, is written the words “San Francisco.” It appears much like a basketball uniform, which it very well may be, if the Castro Lions had a sports team. However, that is unlikely, as the word ‘Lions’ leads one to believe that the group is associated with Lions Club International, which is a civil service and business group. Also attached to the panel is a postcard of San Francisco. Its top half sits atop the bottom left portion of the vest, while the bottom half is attached to the quilt itself. It depicts the Golden Gate Bridge on a relatively clear day with a couple cumulus clouds in the background. The last item attached is what appears to be a half-vest of sorts. It would be worn over the left shoulder. It, like the full vest, is also in gold with purple overlays. However, instead of text, it carries the logo of the Castro Lions, about one-third of the way from the top of the garment.

The panel inevitably leads the observer to several questions: What exactly are the Castro Lions? Why was San Francisco so important to Gary Moonert (the words alone appear three times!)? Is the reversed N some sort of inside reference, meant for those who knew him personally to remember? The only information this panel directly provides is that Gary Moonert was the President of an organization known as the Castro Lions International, and that the city of San Francisco was important to him in some way. However, it provides more questions than answers, and invites the viewer to pursue further investigation of his life and the Castro Lions. The observer learns little-to-nothing about who Gary Moonert was as a person, or what his personality was. From all of these factors, it can be concluded that this panel was meant as a private remembrance for those who knew him personally. That aside, it does provide clear avenues of research for the outside observer.