After two actions led by ACT UP activists encouraged the Whitney Museum to change a wall label, we went looking for people who could tell us who Wojnarowicz was and help us decipher his complex life and art.
What is included in the field of a work of art? The medium may be painting or performance, the subject matter may be landscapes or the death of a lover, and the aesthetics may come from a particular tradition or vein of art. But beyond that, when we discuss a work of art, what else can or should be included in that conversation?
Today’s New York art world is painfully nostalgic for the 1980s — a time when rent in the East Village could be paid on tips, syringes littered the streets, and social forces challenged artists to create astounding works. Creativity crackled in the air, as did the impending trauma and transformation of the near future. Social spaces existed before social media supplanted them. It was a time — “post-disco, pre-house,” according to performance artist Jack Waters — when you could both dance and talk in clubs, and those clubs weren’t just filled with $12 cocktails and bridge-and-tunnel riffraff, but exciting creators building a community.