“Begun in 1992 as a response to the enormity of loss due to the AIDS pandemic, the vigil has become an enduring testimony and gathering place for us to reflect, remember and celebrate the lives of loved ones,” writes Michael Dowling, artistic director of Medicine Wheel Productions in Boston, who has produced the annual vigil for 28 years. “Although AIDS/HIV was the invitation to create this project, it became obvious over the years that people needed space to grieve about many things. Today the installation is an enduring testimony to all those who have gone before.”
The Boston event gets its name from 36 pedestals and portable shrines arranged in a circle. Dowling writes that the circular composition is “rooted in the Celtic medicine wheel and the universal use of the circle as a gathering space to heal, reflect and remember.” Water bottles were suspended in the center of the room with images of the dead affixed to them since each year the installation is inspired by a different element—fire, water, earth, air—and this year’s theme was water.
At the entrance and hung from the walls ringing the room were 36 sections of the landmark Names AIDS Memorial Quilt. And off to the side was a gallery of Boston artist Craig Bailey’s “Faces of AIDS” Photographs, portraits of friends lost to the illness.