Click to skip to site content

COMPULSIVE PRACTICE: James Wentzy

“I was born and raised in the Northern Great Plains. When I came to New York in 1976, I fell in love with the city and stayed. When I tested positive for HIV antibodies in 1990, I turned towards activism to learn all I could. What AIDS activism taught me, fundamentally, was empowerment. We are not passive participants in this plague.”
– James Wentzy, in Holding Steady, 1995

James Wentzy is an AIDS activist and documentary filmmaker associated with ACT UP throughout the 1990s. He has been producer, director and editor for the weekly series AIDS Community Television (aka DIVA TV) since 1991, producing over 160 documentary programs, his own feature-length documentary Fight Back, Fight AIDS. He has documented over 700 hours of actions and demonstrations, conferences, and the communities’ cultural and artistic responses to AIDS. His footage frequently appears in others’ media documentaries. He worked as video archivist for the Estate Project’s AIDS Activist Video Preservation Project at the New York Public Library. See more of Wentzy’s work on his Vimeo page.

James Wentzy, Holding Steady, 1995
James Wentzy, Day of Desperation, 1991
James Wentzy, The Ashes Action, 1992


COMPULSIVE PRACTICE is a video compilation of compulsive, daily, and habitual practices by nine artists and activists who live with their cameras as one way to manage, reflect upon, and change how they are deeply affected by HIV/AIDS.

Featuring Juanita Mohammed, Ray Navarro (1964–1990), Nelson Sullivan (1948–1989), the Southern AIDS Living Quilt, James Wentzy, Carol Leigh aka Scarlot Harlot, Luna Luis Ortiz, Mark S. King, and Justin B. Terry-Smith.

Curated by Jean Carlomusto, Alexandra Juhasz, and Hugh Ryan for Visual AIDS.