The microbes shown within this image are actual HIV cells photographed under an electron microscope. Part of my motivation for making this image in 1996 was the sense of abstraction I felt about the AIDS pandemic. After 15 years of increased understanding about the disease, it is still generally described in terms of aggregate numbers, medications, and ideas. I wanted to see the actual culprit, at its own scale, on its own turf. The number "330,000" is a rough estimate of the American lives lost to the disease as of 1996.

This piece was originally part of a series which involved micro-organisms, both actual and ficticious. The project was exploring two different ideas. First was the interrelationship between organic and human-made elements in our surroundings and within ourselves. The second level concerned various "populations" in the most general sense, which were represented by the numbers within the image. As the series progressed, the first idea became central, and the population aspect fell by the wayside.

This image never quite fit within the context of the others, and so I have always felt that it is in some way unfinished, or that it hasn't been given the chance to live separately, on its own merits, outside of the constraints of the project for which it was originally concieved. With this in mind, it seems appropriate that the image finally be seen on the internet, as a part of World AIDS Day.

Alexander Heilner
Brooklyn, New York, USA

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