Heidi Madsen


Photo credit: Caroline Kraus
Photo credit: Caroline Kraus

We All Fall Down


producer: Heidi Madsen
video & video editing: Sue B Gahn
music: Devin Quinn & Esther Henry

Test Results

multimedia installation


Courtesy of Urban Arts Space, photographed by Michelle Vieira
Courtesy of Urban Arts Space, photographed by Michelle Vieira
Courtesy of Urban Arts Space, photographed by Michelle Vieira



performance artist: Heidi Madsen
dancer & choreographer: Christeen Stridsberg




Heidi Madsen. Performance Artist. Clown. Drag King. Playwright.
Performance art is a powerful way to capture an audience’s attention and start a meaningful conversation. As a performance artist, I want to become a mirror for my audience so that they see themselves as part of the conversation. I have no desire to do any type of performance that does not bring the performers and the audience together to say something new. When I put my clown nose on it doesn’t change me. It is like an on switch for lighting up my authentic self. Clowning is serious business!



Statement for We All Fall Down

“We All Fall Down” is a video about HIV education that focuses on inclusion as a way to eradicate stigma. The original music is inspired by Ring Around the Rosie which is a children’s nursery rhyme associated with the Great Plague in the 17th century. HIV/AIDS could be considered our current day great plague. However, it can be argued that the effects of the stigma associated with the disease are far more detrimental than the disease itself. We all move in closed circles based on our understanding of the world around us. If someone we don’t understand taps us on the shoulder to play in our game will we let them in? The act of inclusion requires us to allow our gloves of ignorance to be peeled away by empathy. Dropping our gloves and receiving a new person’s hand in ours can start a chain reaction turning a closed circle inside out to face the world openhearted. This is how inclusion is spread. Only when we all fall down openhearted together and realize that we are all the same will we become inclusive enough to eradicate stigma of all forms.



Statement for Test Results

There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there is a way to heal from the remnants of the test results. Walk through the door entitled “Test Results: would you pass…?” Then, lift the shade on the door to reveal a mirror under which the rest of the question asks “would you pass judgment”?

Stigma is a remnant of HIV positive test results in the form of unnecessary baggage. People fill our suitcases with cynicism, doubt, judgment and fear because of things they don’t understand. Just like plastic gloves, these barriers give them a false sense of protection from ignorance. They can’t feel anything but the gloves when wearing these gloves. Putting these gloves on is a choice; therefore, they can choose to peel them off. So, why don’t they? Carrying this heavy burden leaves us susceptible to drowning in this river of gloves. All we need to carry with us is a cloak of empathy to lessen the chill of things we don’t understand. When you walk into someone’s house you take off your shoes. Socks are warm, flexible in size, you’re less apt to squish a bug in your socks on and you probably won’t run away in your socks. The cloak of children’s socks represents the qualities of innocence, hope, healing and empowerment that we were born with.

My hope is that you enter this installation open to understanding that anyone can get HIV; the only way you know that you have HIV is by getting tested; and you cannot get HIV from sharing a meal with someone, hugging someone or from children playing together. In fact, if you have HIV/AIDS, this is when you need to share a meal, receive a hug and play together the most. My hope is that you leave this installation inspired to peel off your plastic gloves and walk softly in someone else’s socks.



Statement for Ghost

I’ve come to the river to find the serenity to let go of the things I cannot change. Like a shadow, my perception followed me here. As if I’ve seen a ghost, I shudder at the sight of other people’s fear, judgment, cynicism and doubt in my reflection. I’m at the river ready to peel away those things that I’ve carried from other people. Washing my hands with courage, I stand cloaked in my own hope, healing and empowerment. I look at my reflection again and the ghost is gone. Now, the only thing I see is the wisdom to notice the difference. This performance is dedicated to every HIV positive person who is haunted by this ghost.