Posts Tagged ‘condom’

Old Glory and The Valor Project

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

INDIVIDUAL: Old Glory Condom Corporation – Worn With Pride
Country-Wide, President Jay Critchley
GROUP SIZE: Approximately 100,000 
NATURE OF GROUP: The cumulative number of AIDS cases reported in the US in 1989 (as of 2006 the cumulative number of AIDS related deaths is 650,000. Currently, an estimated 11.2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS) 
INCIDENCE: Old Glory Condom Corporation and The Valor Project 

This report was written by agent Jay Critchley – an early IS agent, mentor, and influence on is’s deployment of elaborate pranks as an art form. A version of this report was originally published in 1996 in The Report #1 an Institute of Sociometry zine of incidence reports that was discontinued in 1999 after issue #4 and was exhibited on a tri-fold display at Sociometry Fair ’96 in San Diego. This is also the third report in is EMANCIPATION, a handmade book in an edition of 200, and the official anthology of is at 21.


Jay Critchley circa 1990 with an Old Glory Condom

“The better part of valor is discretion.” − Shakespeare

Old Glory Condom President Jay Critchley first invoked the words of Patrick Henry at a 1989 press conference of the patriotic condom corporation. At the conference, held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s List Visual Arts Center, Critchley called on President George H.W. Bush to organize an army of safer sex soldiers to fight HIV/AIDS and redefine what it means to be patriotic: to protect and save lives.

The actual business, Old Glory Condom Corporation, which marketed condoms and T-shirts bearing the flag-inspired logo worldwide, was launched on Flag Day in 1990, concurrent with the World AIDS Conference in San Francisco. The corporation filed for a trademark from the US government for its logo and its name, but the Trademark Office ruled, “it was immoral and scandalous to associate the flag with sex” and denied the application. Center for Constitutional Rights lawyer David Cole protested the decision and the trademark was ultimately granted after a three-year legal battle.


The Product…

Old Glory Condoms – Condoms with a Conscience received widespread media coverage, including a front page piece in The Washington Post and a feature story in People Magazine. Senator Jesse Helms, an architect of the culture wars, inadvertently created the first global safer sex commercial by holding up the Old Glory logo and denouncing its trademark in the US Senate, in an episode that was broadcast on CNN.

Condom use remains the essential HIV preventive practice. Despite the draconian anti-sex attitudes of the U.S. government and the Roman Catholic Church, the elementary and effective condom remains the most essential means to control the spread of HIV.

The Valor Project, another safer sex project initiated by Old Glory Condom President Jay Critchley, proposed a simple proposition: collect, categorize, and archive used condoms – including those mailed in, delivered, or gathered from city streets. It was a sex-positive, “hands-on” endeavor that commended people for enjoying safer sex in the midst of the AIDS pandemic.

The Valor Project proposed to establish a collection point where individuals, couples, or groups brought their used condoms and documented their sexual experiences. For this project, AIDS organizations and education and prevention workers who reached out to diverse communities would be invited to participate and help coordinate The Valor Project with their existing efforts. It was through this initiative that IS agents first become pen pals and collaborators with Jay Critchley. After coming across a photocopy of his used condom submission forms IS agents began to collect and mail in their evidence of safer sex. For Sociometry Fair ’96 IS agents, under Jay’s direction and in accordance with the parameters of The Valor Project, created a tri-fold display with a map of San Diego that pinpointed where safer sex practices took place, and an archival display of the condom specimens that were collected in San Diego over the course of six months.


The Valor Project flyer received in the mail in 1995 with used condom submission forms received (and subsequently used for submissions) by San Diego IS agents.

The Old Glory Condom Company, and the legal battle over its trademark, was reported on from 1989-1993 by: Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, The Provincetown Banner, Diamondback, High Performance, Legal Times, The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, New York Woman, Newsweek, People Magazine, The Provincetown Advocate, San Francisco Chronicle, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

This report was most recently published in is EMANCIPATION a 130 page book with 2-color letterpress covers printed and hand-bound with a Japanese stitch in an edition of 200. is EMANCIPATION is a 21 year anthology of art intervention and prank collective The Institute of Sociometry edited, designed, and partly authored by Peter Miles Bergman and edited by MCA Denver Curatorial Associate Zoe Larkins.