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A phone camera pic from our reporter at the downtown LA protest of Clough.

Today is the day that Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough is going to face the press in Los Angeles to answer questions related to the Wojnarowicz censorship case.

I’m sure there will be lots of news from the event, particularly since LA Raw will be protesting the appearance at the Biltmore Hotel, but before the news cycle goes into full speed we wanted to get you up to update you on the latest developments.

Earlier this week, Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes pre-empts Clough’s official statement with a peak at an email he wrote to staff, which Green says compounds his original error.

LA Times‘s art critic & blogger Christopher Knight chimes in and reminds us that:

Backing down to bullies never works. What works is reporting bullies to the authorities — in this case, the authorities being the American public. There are diplomatic ways to do that, but the secretary didn’t even try. Apparently, he won’t be trying at Town Hall, either.

Oh, and in case you missed it, Artinfo’s Ben Davis did some digging a little while ago and found that Clough is no stranger to LGBT-related “controversy,” as proven by his time at Georgia Tech, when he kowtowed to a right-wing group:

Language that could be used to discipline students who attempt harassment against “a person because of race, religious belief, color, sexual/affectional orientation, national origin, disability, age, or gender” was eliminated from the code, while a proscription on “direct verbal threats” or “intimidation” directed against students because of their race, gender, or sexuality was dropped. In effect, following the changes, only direct physical harm was forbidden, and mention of discrimination was dropped from key clauses.

And guess who got the first interview with Clough? You guessed it, Lee Rosenbaum, who has been defending the Smithsonian’s decision for a while. She’s the one who believes it was alright to “sacrifice the video in order to save the show.” Yeah, I don’t get that either. The interview she published today in the Huffington Post is full of excuses and not all of them through Clough’s words but mostly through the filter of Rosenbaum. Green gives you the skinny on Rosenbaum’s strange treatment of LGBT voices, and … oh right, I am an “emotionally charged subject” so it’s probably better I keep my mouth shut in case someone gets offended. And wait, did Clough just say that Hide/Seek:

… continues to be a powerful exhibit about the contributions of gay and lesbian artists …

Ummm, the problem is that Hide/Seek ISN’T an exhibition about the contribution of gay and lesbian artists.

Kriston Capps of the Washington City Paper has a thoughtful piece, “Clough Releases Statement on Wojnarowicz Controversy. But Why Call It a Controversy?” and he reinforces an important point:

My persistent position on this issue is that it was not a controversy. There were not two sides engaged in a debate that Clough then arbitrated and resolved, as he would have you believe.

Possibly related, Modern Art Notes asks, Is the Smithsonian Working with David Gergen?

Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

One reply on “As Protests Take Place in LA, a Smithsonian Secretary Clough Update [UPDATED]”

  1. After the demo (protesting museum censorship-Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles,CA-Secretary of Smithsonian Museum, Wayne Clough, speaking at town hall meeting), a few of us from The Center for the Study of Political Graphics, along with two other activists, went inside for the program. (Some of us got in for free) Wayne Clough started his speech with comments about the “people outside” and his censorship descision. He repeated the term “people outside” several times. I had all I could do to stay in my seat. The room was heavy with security. Twenty minutes later and a boat load of bragging about preserving history for everyone….bla bla…, Clough was ready for question and answers. The questions had to be written on small pieces of paper and handed over to an usher. All very quiet and polite. The first question was about the possibility of bringing the Smithsonian :Hide/Seek show to Los Angeles. Several of us applauded. I yelled out UNCENSORED! People were shocked. (how dare anyone speak out loud!) Security was on me in a second. I told them that this was the question and answer period and that if they kept talking I wasn’t going to be able to hear the answer.
    Several questions later, my new friend Francis blurted out “Shame on you for censoring the exhibition!” The crowd was stunned, security escorted her out. The cameras were flashing.
    My impression of Wayne Clough is that he is self absorbed with a skewed idea of what true history is.
    After all, David Wojnarowicz was a very important person in history. He was a man living with AIDS who fought back with his art and actions. Censoring his video is censoring history, AIDS activist history, art history, and Queer culture history. Like my new friend Francis said, “Shame on you!” Jeff S.

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