Here we go again…

Why is it conservative politicians are always trying to censor art? Last century, Hitler labelled works as “degenerate art” and had many of them (but not all) destroyed. As it turns out, the art he lauded as upholding the Aryan ideal is now seen as totally bland and irrelevant, and the modernist works he despised are revered.

So here we go again in the 21st century in the case of David Wojnarowicz’s short film. The politicians who condemn his work have probably never set foot in an art gallery. Their idea of culture is a beer and a football game. Honestly, it’s fine if your idea of culture is a beer and a football game. Just don’t go around condemning art as “hate speech” or obscene and forcing it out of museums.

In case you haven’t heard, Wojnarowicz’s film Fire in My Belly, A Work in Progress has been forced out of the National Portrait Gallery’s show “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.” Wojnarowicz worked on this film from 1986-1987 during the height of the AIDS crisis that was wiping out half of the New York art world and had recently killed his friend Peter Hujar (and killed him a few years later in 1992). It’s an angry video with some very strong images. The Diamanda Galas soundtrack adds to the angst. Powerful stuff.

The first objections came from the Catholic church. You know, the church that has had a lot of problems with priests molesting young boys. That Catholic church. Don’t they realize that by pointing the finger of blame out into the world, three fingers are pointing right back at them? Apparently not. Anyway, according to the New Museum’s press release:

Catholic League president Bill Donohue called the work an act of “hate speech” against Christians, and began to pressure the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to reconsider funding for the Smithsonian. In response to this misreading of the work and mounting pressure, the work was removed from the exhibition on November 30, 2010.

Of course, none of these politicians have actually seen the video, and the Smithsonian caved and removed it. This is really sad. However, the good news is that the New Museum in New York has come to the rescue and is screening Wojnarowicz’s video now through January 23rd.

David Wojnarowicz


~ by Valerie Palmer on December 7, 2010.

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