Tuesday, December 21, 2010


In 1937, the Nazi Party held an exhibition of Degenerate condemned art works. The Fuehrer himself is attending the show in the photo above. Some of the artists included Paul Klee, Kandinsky and Max Ernst.
The work was supposedly confiscated and destroyed to prevent it's licentious freedom of expression from corrupting the pure fascist morality of the pure National Socialist Society that the Nazi Party was supposedly creating.
Just this last Sunday several hundred people gathered at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to protest the recent decision by the Smithsonian Institution to remove a contentious video from a current exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
The video, "A Fire in My Belly," which was created by the late New York artist David Wojnarowicz and had been part of the exhibition "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," includes a scene of ants crawling over a crucifix. The film was removed following criticism from, among others, the Catholic League and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio).
The protesters marched from the Museum to Cooper-Hewitt, the city's primary Smithsonian institution, holding signs reading "Silence=Death" and "Smithsonian, Stop the Censorship."
The WSJ conveniently left out the name, but the outcry originated none other than Bill Donohue, the perpetually outraged head of the Catholic League, seeking headlines once again.
A Smithsonian exhibit that includes a video of ants crawling on a crucified Christ has triggered an unholy backlash -- with the head of the Catholic League fuming that the artwork is "hate speech."
"A Fire in My Belly," by the late artist David Wojnarowicz, is included in "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," a show at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery to run through Feb. 13.
Catholic League President Bill Donohue said the four-minute video "was designed to insult and inflict injury and assault the sensibilities of Christians," and he blasted the museum's federal funding.
"If the government can't fund the promotion of religion, it shouldn't be in the business of funding an animus to religion," he said.
Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas declined to comment "on people's opinions on art," but noted that the museum, although 55 percent funded by Congress, raises its own money for exhibits.
That's right, the exhibit was privately--not government--funded. But you get a little wailing by Bill Donohue, egged on by John Boehner and the Smithsonian folded like a house of cards.
I lived in the East Village for 25 years and knew Wojnarowicz. I was involved in a few projects with him and was an admirer of the ground breaking musical art band he worked with, 3 Teens Kill 4, a name taken from a sensationalist NY POST headline.
Wojnarowicz was a powerful artist, coming from a very troubled background. A runaway youth from the midwest, he came to NYC and ended up on the streets as a teenage male prostitute. In a lot of ways, he was like a Rimbaud, he wrote, painted and made films brilliantly and his visionary, powerful art work will be in the museums of the future. Wojnarowicz died all to early as a results of AIDS in 1992 at the age of 38.
On the one hand, it's disheartening to see a work being used so blatantly out of context in this way to stir up controversy, but on the other hand, it's really quite beautiful and heartening to see how quickly awareness of the situation has spread, and to see how many institutions have really stepped up to provide people in their communities the opportunity to see the work, to experience it as art rather than just as this tool.
As it's banned by John Boehner and the Catholic League as a cheap publicity PR move, the work is being promoted and exhibited by institutions all over America. It's not 1936 and Freedom of Expression and ideas will not be suppressed! The last gasp of fascism is always religious outrage!
Here is the offending video:

1 comment:

mud_rake said...

Whereas thi art form is not my cup of tea, what it depicts is clearly less offensive than any of the torture chambers erected by the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition.