Photo Essays

Hundreds Attend Wojnarowicz Censorship Protest in Manhattan

by Hrag Vartanian on December 19, 2010

Activists, art bloggers, and co-publishers of Idiom Magazine, James Wagner and Barry Hoggard in front of the Cooper-Hewitt. (click to enlarge)

Today, approximately 400-500 protesters gathered on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum to take part in a rally demanding that the Smithsonian return the censored video by artist David Wojnarowicz, “A Fire In My Belly,” to the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.

Organized by Art+, a New York-based group organizing direct action against the censorship of Wojnarowicz’s video, the march began in the middle of  Museum Mile and marched uptown along Fifth Avenue until the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, which is a Manhattan-based Smithsonian institution.

Protesters chanted everything from “Put it back!” and “Ants in my pants, fire in my belly” to “It’s Christmas, what’s wrong with you?” and the more satirical “Free the ants!

Art+ is demanding the video be restored to the exhibition, which was ordered removed in late November by the Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Glough after manufactured outrage by right-wing media outlets and pressure from right-wing US congressman.

After the protest arrived at the Cooper-Hewitt, rally organizer Bill Dobbs addressed the crowd and the peaceful protest ended soon afterward.

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The protest began with protesters marching in a circle in front of the Metropolitan Museum.

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Protest signs were dominated by David Wojnarowicz’s own face.

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More protesters.

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The ant on a sign asks, “What did I do?”

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A protester marches with a gag to symbolize the Smithsonian’s silencing of Wojnarowicz.

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The glittery “Fire In My Belly” was one of my favorite signs on display as it captured the perfect mix of camp, activism, and artistic expression.

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Wojnarowicz asks, “Wussup Haters?”

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Artinfo’s Andrew Goldstein gets a quote from a protester.

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The march heads uptown along Central Park.

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Marchers pass the Guggenheim Museum.

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A symbol of a bygone era of AIDS activism, ACT UP’s “Silence = Death” slogan seems as relevant as ever.

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Someone has a frank message about free speech.

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An activist draws the stitching around his mouth to mimick David Wojnarowicz’s “Untitled” (1990).

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The spirit of queer activism was exemplified by this leather jacket that depicted a bomb-like olive in a martini glass on a field of pink.

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A gentleman, who someone told me was possibly Ronnie Cutrone Peter Cramer, with a unique protest sign that I wasn’t able to figure out that makes sense if you read this line from Holland Cotter’s piece about the Wojnarowicz video, “Certain images were evidently filmed in a studio: coins falling into a bandaged hand, and a hand held under splashing water; halves of a loaf of bread being sewn together, and a man’s lips being sewn shut. “

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Bill Dobbs, one of the protest organizers, addressing the crowd and demanding that the Wojnarowicz video be returned to the Hide/Seek exhibition.

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Blogger Barry Hoggard at the Cooper-Hewitt.

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Protesting censorship is a family affair.

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The crowd in front of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

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An activist recreates a poignant moment from Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire In My Belly Video.”

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The protest was organized by Art+ (aka Art Positive), which is a New York City-based art action group fighting censorship and homophobia.

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