Meeting in Natural Presence

The effect of people meeting each other, influencing each other's lives and each other's work, is significant when analysing today's realities and how they came to be the way we find them today. It may be obvious to many people, but I do want to establish the fact that when people meet in natural presence they actually have the potential to influence each other's life profoundly. Meeting people in natural presence can also influence organizational developments. When people meet in natural presence this meeting has a potential for change. In the GHP and in the 0+Ball, by gathering people together physically, long-lasting relationships were initiated that have had significant influences on how organizations and personal lives have evolved.

Vice versa, the loss of people one is in a personal or professional relation with, also changes what will happen next. The extremely sad and still angering reality of AIDS, which has caused so many people to die since the 0+Ball, has also had an impact on this. ACT UP Amsterdam had a significant influence, among others on the HIV Vereniging for example, but it ceased to exist in 1992. Andre Bongers died in 1991, and Eric Hamwijk in 1992. The HIV Vereniging itself has also been dependent on people who were not ill, since so many active members died too early, too soon, too fast and their effort and expertise were lost.

The question of what happens to one's natural presence when one is facing death was shared between people who were dealing with this dilemma. Sharing the anger, sharing the fear, sharing the struggle and sharing the lust for life was important for many people. The witnessing of each other when facing changes in natural presence, and facing possible absence, became a catalyst for finding ways to deal with these issues in the 1980's. Because issues were rigorously discussed on different levels Ñ political, emotional, spiritual and economic Ñ new solutions and methodologies were invented, like the buddy projects, different pharmaceutical trial designs, support groups for friends and family, hospices where one can go to die, and so on.note 189 As ACT UP wrote at the time "to be united in anger to fight AIDS" was a strategy in which war was declared on current power structures. note 190 Being together, sharing experience gives courage and imagination to engage in the fight. To conduct such a battle while people are dying is not only difficult for people personally, but also debilitating for the movement because expertise and commitment keeps on falling away and having to be replaced by new people at a very rapid rate.

Sharing time and place and action in natural presence is a very powerful situation for developing social interactions of significance. This 'triviality' has been taken for granted for many centuries. Since we are increasingly surrounded by mediated presence and it has become part of our day-to-day lives, this can no longer be considered a triviality. To make the effort and spend money to 'really' meet has an importance that is often unacknowledged compared to the potential of mediated presences. Meeting via mediated presence has a potential for change as well, but this operates very differently, as will elaborated upon later in the sections about Radio Paradiso and the 0+Network.

Rochelle Griffin formulated one of the severe critiques of the 0+Ball, which specifically addressed the way we facilitated how people could meet each other in natural presence. For many years Griffin has been running the Stichting Vuurvlinder, the Firefly Foundation, which gives refuge and support to people who are dying. Rochelle considered the environment of Paradiso unfit for conducting good conversations, there was not enough care and kindness to deal with the issues at hand when facing the illnesses caused by AIDS (Personal Folder Fold and Follow UP, 1990). Griffin herself arrived in a wheelchair with the dog that protected her and was received with hostility by the doormen of Paradiso. Even though we tried to facilitate as much variety of atmospheres as possible in a 'rock temple' like Paradiso, the possibilities were of course limited. When orchestrating one has to make choices. Our foremost aim was to organise a good political meeting and a worthy celebration of the courage of having to live with AIDS. Silence, care and intimate conversations were also part of the programme, but maybe more as signals of attention than as real moments and places. Thus the critique of Griffin made sense.