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COMPULSIVE PRACTICE: Nelson Sullivan

​“Here is the new us, in there [pointing to camera]. You can see in the inner circle there, that’s everything in there. From now on I’m just going to do videos inside there, so I can take that place somewhere else. We can talk to everyone who is watching and everyone in the background too, and see it ourselves in there.” 
– Nelson Sullivan, in Lisa E’s Positive Me, 1988

Nelson Sullivan (1948–1989) was a video artist in New York City during the 1980s. Nelson lived in a large townhouse at 5 Ninth Avenue in the Meatpacking District of New York City and his houseguests over the years included Lady Bunny, Michael Alig and the Club Kids, Sylvia Miles, Albert Crudo, and John Sex. Decades before the invention of YouTube and selfie sticks, Nelson Sullivan obsessively carried his camera all over NYC. He documented both the exceptional and everyday lives of the creative individuals with whom he came in contact. Nelson Sullivan died of a heart attack at the age of 41. More of his work is available here.

Nelson Sullivan, Susanne Bartsch’s Love Ball, 1989
Nelson Sullivan, John Sex Bad Boys, c. 1989
Nelson Sullivan, Lisa E’s Positive Me, 1988
Nelson Sullivan, Downtown Recording Session to Fight AIDS, 1988


​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.