December 2010: Voice of Art Episode #1



Noah Becker asks:
DAVID WOJNAROWICZ'S video work "A Fire in My Belly" has been removed from "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" in 100 words or less, what are your feelings about this controversy and the removal of the video from the exhibition?

Sandy Gellis:
Hard to believe. Is this a frightening reflection of the times. Some, in our government are feeling empowered, is this a growing trend? What could possibly be so threatening in an art exhibit that would require its removal? Perhaps protests/thoughts could become part of an exhibit. The beginnings of a discussion.

Carolyn Marks Blackwood
The withdrawal of "The Fire In My Belly" by the National Gallery was a cowardly act. Instead of standing on principal and just clarifying the misconceptions of its meaning, the NG voluntarily withdrew the video, fearing federal monetary cutbacks. With the conservative political swing, I expect a narrowing range of what museums show. Sad times for Art. I found it particularly ironic that the withdrawal of this emotional AIDS related piece happened on World Aids Day and when Art headlines were heralding the Neues Museum show of art the Nazis had deemed "Degenerate Art". Some things never change.

Aaron Holz:
David who?  I have to admit complete unfamiliarity with this video and the artist before it became news. I’m also not convinced that it is particularly compelling work of art.  But, that’s not the point.  The removal of the video is outrageous. Where is the conviction on the part of curators and the museum director?  A little plot of soil just grew warm around the sad corpse of Jesse Helms while the cultural thermostat of our nation appears to have dropped below zero.

Jason Gringler:
I would like to extend my sympathies to Bill Donohue (president of the Catholic League) for having to exist within the confines of such a narrow and uncompromising mind. Please spare us.

Tracey Harnish:
Surely it is no coincidence that our country is embroiled in a hot debate about the repeal of DADT. Politicians are using art as a wedge to stir up controversy about an issue that has nothing to do with the 7 seconds of ants on a Christ mannequin. Suppressing our art if it is offensive to any religion is equal to Muslim fanatics that threaten anyone who takes a critical visual view of Mohammed. Turning a blind eye to this censorship, is like sitting back and watching your countrymen be put in an interment camp and taking no action.

Ola Manana:
Although the focus is on AIDS, hunger, sexual politics, greed and religion are included.  Wajnarovic may being interpreted as blaming
the government or systems of control, having lost control as he battled with AIDS. Why is it surprising that these systems would want
to remove the "evidence," that he provides? Conversely, perhaps they feel that attacking ANY religion is wrong for a national museum.  It is sad that this beautiful, damning video is being suppressed. It would not be if it were not true.

Mark Dutcher:
My boyfriend, Thomas Chamberlain died on April 17, 1993. He wasn't even 40 years old. This is what i can't forget about that day; I remember Thomas being afraid and unable to speak, his brown eyes darting back and forth, the death rattle, me holding an ice cube to his parched lips and Thomas looking like a tiny frail bird. What i find so offensive is that the David Wojnarowicz video was removed on World AIDS day. David Wojnarowicz was a hero to me. He gave voice to the anger and urgency of the time and allowed me to be angry and urgent. Kind of like how i feel right now.

Shirley Ayn Choi:
Woke up this morning with "A Fire In My Belly" ringing in my head... such a powerful cry of pain. The Catholic League who had this video by David Wojnarowicz removed because it offended their Christian sensitivity, should look into their souls for human compassion. Rather being so offended by the work, they should embrace with compassion those who are suffering like this. Isn’t it what Christ would have done?  If anything is offensive in this video, it is the pain and suffering of people who are made to think that they are dirty, unclean, unfit for decent society...  I think Tennessee Williams said it best through one of his characters in The Night of the Iguana, “ I find nothing human disgusting, except suffering and pain…”

Campbell Laird:
Finally the Clergy are turning their thoughts to the Oh so Wily & Devious ANT!... again! Not since an ant ridden & ruined 'Last Supper' where Jesus was heard to issue forth loudly and in some pain 'I THINK I JUST GOT ME BUM BIT' has such a kerfuffle arisen. Clearly Ants are on the march again! Black, Wily, sixlegged and intent on crawling into God Fearing peoples nether regions everywhere. These feral very small things must be eradicated from the Vestibule, the Eucharist & Communion wafers with all due haste! As one cheery Pastor said as he was entering the rectory, 'A world without Ants would leave us free & clear to get back to our core beliefs of Fear, Delusion & inappropriate Sex stuff with our young folk!

Matthew Rose

I met David Wojnarowicz just before his plane took off, interviewing him for ARTS Magazine in NYC in early 1990 (cover story May 1990).  We met near Tompkins Square Park and talked for about two hours – about death (his own mortality, his lover, Peter Hujar's), AIDS, fear, religion and David's then-battle with preacher-turned-censor Don Wildmon. What's different here?  Not much. We're reminded yet again that America is really a constellation of special interest islands; more and more the only thing we share is an internet connection and fear of the other. David would probably find a way to exploit the hell out of it.  Glad to see his work always.


Art professionals around the world are talking about certain issues at length. It is our interest to continue this dialogue with a weekly series of articles called "Voice of Art". After some deliberation we've selected some of the most interesting art voices from the online community to participate here.


Whitehot writes about the best art in the world - founded by artist Noah Becker in 2005. 


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