Tagged: national portrait gallery

Colbert: Doing artspeak & the Wojnarowicz controversy in one fell swoop.

Fire in my Belly: Or how the Smithsonian capitulated to right-wing interests.

Untitled (One Day This Kid…), 1990, by David Wojnarowicz. (Image courtesy of PPOW.)

In the event that you haven’t been following, the Smithsonian engaged in a spectacular act of cowardice this past week. The short of it is that the museum removed a video by artist David Wojnarowicz from Hide/Seek, a queer-themed show at the National Portrait Gallery, after the Catholic League complained that the work was anti-Christian. Since then, the artist’s work has turned into a whipping boy for the far right (namely, no one who has seen the video or the exhibit).

Following the hubbub, the Smithsonian removed the piece, despite the fact that not a single museum attendee had complained about it. The video, titled Fire in My Belly, is a meditation on the AIDS epidemic, created in 1987, when the pandemic was in full and fatal swing. Needless to say, it’s extremely worrisome (and enraging) to see a museum buckle to special political interests in this way. Not to mention that it’s anti-intellectual and censorious.

I’m on a crazy deadline, so I haven’t been able to give this the focus it deserves, but if you’re looking for more reads, here are a few links:

  • ArtInfo has background on the story.
  • PPOW, the gallery that manages Wonjarowicz’s estate has issued a statement criticizing the move. They also have Wojnarowicz’s video online for viewing.
  • The Smithsonian has released a pathetic response on why it capitulated to a political interest group.
  • Over the weekend, a couple of protesters got arrested detained at the National Portrait Gallery for playing the video on an iPad and handing out fliers. See a video here.
  • The New Gay has direct e-mail addresses to the Smithsonian officials in charge of this mess. Let ‘em know what you think.
  • If you live in New York, you can check out the video at the New Museum, now playing in the lobby – for free!
  • If you read one story about this, make sure it’s Christopher Knight’s take over at the L.A. Times, in which he explores the anti-gay nature of the right-wing protest over the show.
  • LATE ADDITION: My 101 on the controversy over at WNYC.