On November 30, 1994, choreographer Bill T. Jones’s experimental dance piece “Still/Here” opened at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The work featured live dancers performing in front of video footage of terminally ill people discussing their sicknesses. Nearly a month later, dance critic Arlene Croce blasted the piece in a now-infamous essay in the New Yorker. Announcing that she had never seen “Still/Here” and had no intention of doing so, Croce wrote, “By working dying people into his act, Jones is putting himself beyond the reach of criticism. I think of him as literally undiscussable.” She went on to classify that category of undiscussability as “those dancers I’m forced to feel sorry for because of the way they present themselves: as dissed blacks, abused women, or disenfranchised homosexuals—as performers, in short, who make out of victimhood victim art.” In many ways, the National Portrait Gallery’s current, controversial, and excellent special exhibition Hide/Seek feels like a resounding rebuttal of Croce’s thesis.
Kriston Capps reports that the iPad protesters previously banned from the Smithsonian are returning to the site of their crimes. This time, artists Michael Blasenstein and Michael Iacovone will stage a fully legal protest by parking a trailer outside the National Portrait Gallery and screening Wojnarowicz’s censored video inside.
Now that the dust has somewhat settled on the Wojnarowicz and Blu censorship cases, a number of people have been chiming in about what this tells us about the state of art and our culture, specifically American culture. The numerous opinions from where I stand look dire. Here are some fascinating posts we haven’t mentioned before.
The new year is always a time of idealism. We want to improve ourselves, lose weight, find success in a new career: everyone has high aspirations. Why shouldn’t we do the same for the art world? Here’s a list of resolutions I have for the contemporary art community in 2011. There are some suggestions, some criticisms and some predictions, but what they all have in common is a desire to foster a better public artistic dialogue, free of some of the snares we encountered over this past year. Click through for a small flash of optimism before what promises to be a roller coaster ride.
The short answer is probably not under US law but we’re not sure under Canadian law.
What do Wikileaks and the art world’s response to the censorship of David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” by the Smithsonian have in common? Both make public what elites want to keep secret. They illustrate how little, if anything, can be hidden anymore and demonstrate how the more something is concealed the more the demand for it to be revealed grows.
What the complex and seemingly unrelated stories of Wikileaks and the censorship of “A Fire in My Belly” at the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture highlights is how insiders, or those with insider access, can use their privilege to unsettle the status quo when it isn’t working anymore.
Today, we present all the submissions to our first (and perhaps only) Draw Jesus Day. [NOT A SPOOF]
Two new developments in the Wojnarowicz Censorship case since we last reported on the Hide/Seek show and its problems with government censorship and a Smithsonian Secretary who just can’t say sorry … Washington Post‘s Philip Kenicott is asking for Secretary G. Wayne Clough to resign … collector Jim Hedges wants his work by Jack Pierson out of the show …
Fighting the perception that all Catholics are as conservative as those espoused in William Donohue’s Catholic League call for the Smithsonian to remove David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” from Hide/Seek, Catholics United has begun a petition calling for closer scrutiny Donohue’s organization. Specifically, they target his high salary and his claim to represent the wishes of all Catholics. In the meantime, artist AA Bronson has repeatedly been denied his request to have his “Felix, June 5, 1994” removed from the exhibition, and Patti Smith spoke at the Smithsonian despite controversy.
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.
In an email posted on Newsgrist, artist AA Bronson, who asked that his portrait of Felix Partz be removed from the Smithsonian’s Hide/Seek exhibition following the censorship, suggests to director Martin Sullivan that his piece be removed to make room for the Wojnarowicz video.