The Lazaretto

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The Lazaretto: An Installation About the Current Status of the AIDS Crisis, collaborative installation with Paul Marcus and Susan Pyzow
PPOW Gallery
September 6 - 29, 1990


According to Fire in the Belly,

“David and Marcus had been collecting stories from people with AIDS about the physical horrors, the victimization, and the discrimination they often faced. (For example, ‘I spent nine days in a hospital emergency room corridor. They sent me home when I refused a colonoscopy in the hallway.’) They began the installation by constructing a labyrinth with black plastic bags. They wrote out the stories they'd collected on large sheets of paper and attached those to the billowing walls. This maze led to a grotesque sickroom where, in a corner, a skeleton lay under a blanket on a cot. Decorating the walls around the cot was a screed about access to health care and other issues affecting the politicized body. On a nightstand sat many bottles of pills and a small TV pumping out daytime drivel, crowned on top with an actual dead cockroach. there was garbage on the floor, splotches of vomit, a Raggedy Ann. In the hallway leading from this room, blue hands reached out of the walls. This led to a ship of fools and its papier-mâché passengers--Cardinal O'Connor, Jesse Helms, and George H.W. Bush. They floated across a sea in mid-cry and hundreds of human hands reached out for help. Past this centerpiece came a dancing Howdy Doody, who talked nonstop…. Just outside the installation stood three long tables covered with pamphlets, fact sheets, condoms, and needle bleaching kits from a diverse selection of groups trying to address the crisis. The soundtrack to it all, on a loop, was what David claimed as his favorite song, Louie Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World.’” [1]

For more on this installation see interview with Paul Marcus in David Wojnarowicz: A definitive history of five or six years on the Lower East Side, Eds. Sylvère Lotringer and Giancarlo Ambrosino (New York: Semiotexte, 2006)


Click here to read checklist from The Lazaretto

Installation view


Paul Marcus
Marcus is an artist who attended high school with Wojnarowicz, although they didn't get to know each other until later, when Marcus was also represented by PPOW Gallery. He is married to Susan Pyzow.

Susan Pyzow
Pyzow is an artist who was also represented by PPOW Gallery. She is married to Paul Marcus.

Pages on Knowledge Base that link to this page


  1. Cynthia Carr, Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (New York, Bloomsbury, 2012): 505.