Bordowitz Chapter 4

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S.R. One more theoretical question; (...) M. Foucault was coming to specific points, I mean he was thinking, writing and working for a very long time on the so called panoptic system in which we are in which we are involved, in which we are included. Would you say that the concept of the panoptic system itself and how we understand it changed through all the discussions from the beginning of the 80s with the AIDS-crisis in the middle of the 80s? Do you think there was a change in this panoptic system, how it is reflected, how it is working in ourselves?

G.B. Sure, I think there has been an intensification of surveillance and all of the disciplinary functions that Foucault pointed out. But I like to address...I answer your question in a different way. I think there has been an intensification of surveillance in our lives and I think the disciplinary functions of that surveillance has also increased and become more effective (...) but when you talk about Foucault I also think about his practice and how it was profoundly influential on Aids activists. When you read Foucault in the 80s, me and my friend R. Navarro, a friend of mine who was in the Whitney programme in the late 80s and he died of Aids in 91, who was on of my closest friends, we read Foucault in the 80s and thought about how it related to our Aids activism; we were very interested in how F. went into the prisons and asked prisoners what a prison should look like, how he went into mental institutions and asked patients what an institution should look like. That directly influenced our position on how people with Aids should be directly in control of the research agenda and the ways in which we were cared for. One of the great contributions that Aids activism made certainly to US politics if not to politics elsewhere was the recognition of people with Aids and people with a disease in general as a class of people that have rights, as a class of people that should play a determining role in their future. We got that directly from reading Foucault. We understood the power move; we understand how to empower ourselves as subjects of a disciplinary surveillance. By reading Foucault we understood that we captured by the medical gays. And we understood what to do in order to seize power in the face of that. That's what we got from Foucault.

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