Abstract

In the wake of COVID-19, virtual platforms of contact have reimagined trans-of-color knowledge and intimacy despite social distance. The “digital,” whether cybernetic or handcrafted, has long pervaded trans and queer-of-color artistic innovation and even informed their critical responses to the AIDS crisis. None have a better grasp of the virtuosity of virtual interfaces than mixed-media artist Olivero Rodriguez. Drawing on his literary and image-based art piece entitled The Papi Project (2010–18), this essay articulates how he works in tandem with speculation and archiving. The result is a life support system reviving dormant erotic networks and complex familial relations central to his reclusive late father, Peter. By chasing Papi, Rodriguez empowers an archival art strategy to visually reconcile a trans-of-color childhood and patrilineal relations with a virus. Furthermore, by contesting the way AIDS narratives eclipse children's perspectives on disease, Rodriguez's intervention has consequence for trans-of-color historical critique, breathing new life into an “epidemic child, not birthed but raised by AIDS.”

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