120 BPM: A Symposium

London, UK (11.5.2019), 14. February 2019.


11th May, VFD Dalston, London, UK

This symposium focuses entirely on Robin Campillo’s 2017 film 120 BPM. The film follows the HIV and AIDS activist group ACT UP in early 1990s Paris during the AIDS crisis. We sit through intense ACT UP meetings, watch as the activists throw themselves into the disco, and witness them falling in love. 120 BPM also at times leaves its human narratives behind, the camera instead zooming in on microbiological mutations in immune cells or focusing on the architectural forms of the city of Paris itself. 120 BPM’s multi-faceted approach to the AID crisis across political, personal, and biological levels demands for interdisciplinary engagement and analysis.

In light of the breakaway success of 120 BPM, this conference will ask: what does it mean to make a film about the AIDS crisis in 2017? What relationship to queer generations have now with the trauma of the 80s and 90s? How do we process the political, bodily and affective traumas of the crisis today in a time of PEP and PrEP? What responsibility do various artistic forms carry with them in regards to HIV and AIDS representation?

We invite proposals for papers of 15 minutes from postgraduate researchers, early career academics and established scholars, from Film, Media, and Cultural Studies and related disciplines. Papers will analyse 120 BPM through a variety of different lenses and theoretical frameworks or in relation to other recent cultural products or developments in HIV and AIDS representation, activism, and clinical understanding and treatment. We particularly encourage interdisciplinary approaches which span film and art criticism as well as cultural history, biology, clinical practice, politics, activism, musicology, dance, etc.

We are delighted to have Dr Fiona Johnstone as our keynote, whose book Representing AIDS: Portraits and Self-Portraits during the AIDS Crisis in America is forthcoming with I.B. Tauris.

Papers should focus predominantly on 120 BPM itself. Approaches to the film might include, but are not limited to:

•  Film studies approaches, including film-philosophy
•  Dance and music studies
•  Medical Humanities engagement with HIV/AIDS representation and  activism
•  Recent developments in queer and feminist theory
•  AIDS activism in relation to urban space and architecture
•  Cultural histories of AIDS
•  Activism in a digital age
•  120 in relation to contemporary AIDS activism and representation
•  The body and the body politic
•  120 BPM in relation other mediums of AIDS representation, such as theatre, writing, comics, etc.

Please send your abstract (250-300 words), along with with a 50 word bio, to Alice Pember and Benjamin Dalton at 120BPMsymposium@gmail.com by Valentine’s Day, February 14th 2019.

Alice Pember,
PhD candidate in Film Studies,
School of Languages, Linguistics and Film,
Queen Mary, University of London,
Mile End Road,
London E1 4NS