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"Present"ing AIDS: COVID-19 and the Aesthetics of Social Distance

Florian Zitzelsberger

Pages 475 - 488



This publication is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License Attribution - NonCommercial - NoDerivatives 4.0.

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This article turns to digital productions of AIDS drama during the COVID-19 pandemic—staging William Finn and James Lapine’s musical "Falsettos" and Tony Kushner’s "Angels in America"—to consider alternative forms of relationality in a time when the collective experience of performance has been impeded by the closure of theaters and safety measures such as social distancing. Presenting—"making present"—the AIDS crisis, the cross-temporal dialogues facilitated by these productions reconfigure viewers’ affective relations and responses to both past and present pandemics. Attuning viewers to queer rhythms, the temporal disorientation experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic can become a source of solidarity. Two case studies exemplify what an aesthetics of social distance might look like: By suggesting relations across time as well as the screen, actors, characters, and viewers are brought together despite their temporal and physical distance. Such metaleptic encounters compensate for the lost contact during a performance with a feeling of presence and presentness.

Key Words:AIDS drama; digital performance; metalepsis; presence; queer temporalities

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