Warhol Foundation wants Wojnarowicz brought back to Hide/Seek … Smithsonian says no … Catholics for Choice weigh in …
The Smithsonian’s decision to remove David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” video from its Hide/Seek exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery is already made and done. The piece is gone, but it has popped up in a number of other locations, including a display at the New Museum and Transformer Gallery in DC. The question is, should the piece be restored to Hide/Seek? I’d say that it doesn’t really matter any more.
As the Smithsonian censorship of David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” video continues to make waves, it’s important to remember that the decision was made not by National Portrait Gallery staff, but by the absentee Smithsonian secretary. A leaked memo drafted by Portrait Gallery director Martin Sullivan and published by Artinfo demonstrates the internal conflict over the controversial decision.
David C. Ward is co-curator of the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture exhibition, which has become a lightning rod for right-wing attacks on the federally funded Smithsonian institution. The show is the first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture. There are many LGBT images on display but the work is not limited to gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender artists and encompasses work by many names that are mainstays in art history, including Thomas Eakins, John Singer Sargent, Romaine Brooks, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Martin, David Hockney, Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, AA Bronson, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres.
But what has really catapulted the show into the limelight is the fact that last week Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough ordered David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” video pulled from the National Portrait Gallery show.
We’ve all been curious about what David Wojnarowicz’ video looks like installed in the lobby of the New Museum. Well, check it out! Click through for more photos.
When the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery announced that it would be removing “A Fire in My Belly,” a David Wojnarowicz video work, from its Hide/Seek exhibition due to Republican political pressure, the art world rushed to the work’s defense. Among the first art institutions to respond to the scandal was the New Museum. In a press release on December 6, the museum announced that it would be displaying the video in its lobby “as an act of solidarity with the many artists whose rights of expression continue to be limited by misinformation and fear.”
In a Hyperallergic-exclusive Q+A with New Museum’s director Lisa Phillips, the director explains how the museum reacted to the initial controversy and how the decision was made to display the censored video in the lobby.
Two activists were detained by police on Saturday at the National Portrait Gallery after showing David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” on an iPad inside the museum. Both activists were ejected and subsequently banned for life from any Smithsonian Institution facility.
D.C. residents Mike Blasenstein, 37, and Mike Iacovone, 35, displayed the Wojnarowicz video at the entrance of Hide/Seek, the exhibit from which Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution Wayne Clough had the piece removed last week. Guards at the National Portrait Gallery approached Blasenstein and Iacovone a little after 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, about 10 minutes after the two kicked off their guerrilla tablet exhibition … [Washington City Paper]
On a recent RT America segment, a Catholic League spokesperson is calling David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” video anti-Christian and compares ants on Jesus to “putting a swastika on a synagogue.” The video was part of the Smithsonian’s Hide/Seek exhibition and was recently pulled when various right-wing politicians, goaded by the Catholic League, manufactured outrage at 10 seconds in a 30-minute video.
Hyperallergic tweep @remaerdyaD pointed out that David Wojnarowicz’ video, recently removed from the National Portrait Gallery’s Hide/Seek exhibition, has also been flagged as “inappropriate for some users” on YouTube, meaning that viewers will have to sign in to the website and check their safety settings before being able to watch the video.
Since there’s nothing explicitly offensive in the video, I have to guess that YouTube’s decision to wall off the video was carried out in the aftermath of the conflict at the Smithsonian over religious imagery in Wojnarowicz’ work.
When I saw that the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery chose to remove David Wojnarowicz’ “A Fire in My Belly” from its Hide/Seek exhibition following Republican political pressure, I was embarrassed and a little confused for the museum. Isn’t it the job of the art world to stand up to those who essentialize art as “offensive” or “degenerate,” and represent the minority who find little voice in the mainstream outside of art? By choosing to self-censor rather than bear out a media storm that has now turned against the museum, the Smithsonian sets a precedent by which art exhibitions can be compromised piece by piece simply because their imagery may be disagreeable to some.
The National Portrait Gallery has caved under Republican political pressure and removed a potentially “offensive” video work by David Wojnarowicz, a multi-media artist who was felled by AIDS in 1992, from its Hide/Seek exhibition. The exhibition, deemed brave and important by critics, uncovers previously-veiled LGBT influences in the history of art. Yet threats and demands that the exhibition be canceled from Reps. John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-Va.) have caused the NPG to remove Wojnarowicz’ “A Fire In My Belly,” a video that features a brief clip of ants crawling over a crucifixion Jesus figure.