Activism | Art and Design | Censorship | David Wojnarowicz | News | Washington DC

Hundreds March in NYC Against National Portrait Gallery Censorship of Gay-Themed Art Show

Protest_wojnarowicz

Several hundred people marched in protest of the National Portrait Gallery in D.C.'s decision to censor a video work by the late artist David Wojnarowicz earlier this month, Hyperallergic reports.

They have a great selection of photos, a couple of which you see here.

Writes the blog: James_barry

"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. Protesters chanted everything from 'Put it back!' and 'Ants in my pants, fire in my belly” to 'It’s Christmas, what’s wrong with you?' and the more satirical 'Free the ants!' Art+ is demanding the video be restored to the exhibition, which was ordered removed in late November by the Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Glough after manufactured outrage by right-wing media outlets and pressure from right-wing US congressman."

Wojnarowicz's video work, "A Fire in My Belly", was a tribute to a lover who died of AIDS, and featured, in part, a crucifix crawling with ants meant to convey the suffering of Jesus on the cross.

The WSJ adds

Linda St. Thomas, a spokesperson for the Smithsonian, expressed regret that the video's removal had overshadowed the exhibit itself. "One hundred and four pieces remain," she said in a telephone interview. "We're sorry that the video had to become the focal point."

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  1. "Linda St. Thomas, a spokesperson for the Smithsonian, expressed regret that the video's removal had overshadowed the exhibit itself. "One hundred and four pieces remain," she said in a telephone interview. "We're sorry that the video had to become the focal point.""

    If the Smithsonian hadn't made it a focal point by pulling it from the exhibit. None of this would be happening...they have no one to blame but themselves.

    Posted by: Taylor | Dec 20, 2010 7:56:41 AM


  2. The Smithsonian caved to extremist who threatened them .... because an image of a God was not treated with respect.

    The American Taliban strikes and they caved.

    Posted by: Tony X | Dec 20, 2010 8:49:56 AM


  3. This shows the ineffectiveness of DC-based gay rights groups. Obviously this protest should have occurred in DC, but apparently nobody there thought to organize one of any sufficient scale.

    The Smithsonian read the writing on the wall: incoming GOP members of Congress = we hate homos and their art. You know, for the children.

    Posted by: Paul R | Dec 20, 2010 9:02:17 AM


  4. These art-type gays always make me chuckle. I personally was appalled at the video. Does that make me a bad-gay? Probably. I've said before that fellow gays should be decent enough to not want to get their freak on in public or washrooms, and the same types of howled at the moon it's their right to have sex whether they please, and how dare I suggest otherwise. Oh well. I think different. Does that make me a conservative gay (even though I vote Peace and Freedom). I'm a bad gay. :D I don't agree with some opinions! How dare I! That makes me a communist fascist I bet!

    Posted by: LOL! | Dec 20, 2010 10:24:19 AM


  5. Stop calling it censorship, the Smithsonian is not preventing Wojnarowicz’s video from being shown anywhere by anyone. The Smithsonian pulled his video from their exhibit, and no matter how dumb or misguided the reason, it is totally within their right to do so. Do I think they should have kept it in the exhibit? Yes, absolutely. But they haven't censored the work or the artist.

    Posted by: Donald | Dec 20, 2010 10:52:09 AM


  6. I don't get having a protest in front of Museums in NY that have nothing to do with the Portrait Gallery in DC.
    It would be like if Microsoft had discriminated against gays, but Microsoft was not in NY so you went and protested outside an Apple store.
    How does this do anything? Why not get on a bus and go down to DC?
    This seems a bit silly.

    Posted by: Bobo | Dec 20, 2010 11:05:53 AM


  7. Dear LOL!, since you don't identify as an "arty" type, and you really play fast and loose with your analogies--randomly equating art and public sex--why not explore some of the artists' intent with the work before judging it. The Wojnarowicz video clip conveys the frenetic desperation of the ants (or PWAs) crawling across a silent, immobile, inactive representation of the "church." In other ways, a crucified martyr is a substitute for the artists' lover whose death from AIDS must have been tortuous to endure, and for the artist to powerlessly watch unfold (possibly like ants crawling over your body and having no ability to make it stop). It is an inspired work that captures the anger and frustration of the time in which it was created. Last weekend, NY Times op/ed columnist Frank Rich wrote an excellent essay about the current controversy at the National Portrait Gallery. I encourage you to read it.

    And DONALD, it is most definitely censorship. True, the piece exists and is available outside of this exhibition, but the curator included the work and it was cut from the show, after it was fully organized and open to the public. The Smithsonian caved -- and their credibility went with it.

    I shouldn't need to stand here on the sidelines reminding you both why David Wojnarowicz is an important artist of the 20th-century. Make the effort to learn about his work before making such ill-informed comments.

    Art-type gays may make you chuckle (derisively), but provincial gays like you are contributing nothing to the conversation except close-mindedness and snap judgements--not unlike the conservative fundamentalists who started this fight. Go take an art history class and learn some historical perspective.

    Posted by: Not Thomas Kincaid | Dec 20, 2010 2:13:35 PM


  8. Thank you Thomas Kincaid for your clever, mouth shutting comment. I would like to add, being a member of Art+ and having participated actively in organizing the protest, that I am really proud of what we did in only 10 days. Get on a bus and drive to D.C? Easier said than done. We had absolutely NO time to organize any kind of funding so we basically put in not only our time but also our own money into this. If you think you can do better, join us on artpositiv.org! Oh and btw, there already was a protest in D.C so I hope you have some fresh ideas!

    Posted by: mighty girl | Dec 21, 2010 9:47:53 PM


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