“Happy World AIDS Day, Faggots!”
Today is World AIDS Day and in what might possibly be the most ironic gesture ever, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery has censored a video by artist David Wojnarowicz by removing it from its current exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.
Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1992 at the age of 37 was a brilliant artist, writer, philosopher and activist whose work fearlessly challenged the expectations of identity, gender, sickness and health in an era dominated by conservative politics and a mounting epidemic that effectively robbed our culture of a generation of gay men.
The censored work is a 1987 video called Fire in My Belly, a visceral excavation of sensuality, violence, and religion. (Fortunately for us, the sanctimonious closet cases in Congress haven’t been able to remove it from YouTube, though you might have to sign in to view it due to its graphic nature, which isn’t really even all that graphic by contemporary standards.)
The reason given for the Republican outrage are the ants crawling on a crucifix (not the crotch shots, which we must therefore assume they didn’t mind one bit). Jen Graves has more on the mounting controversy over on the Slog, including instructions for firing off an email to the Smithsonian. While you’re at it, you might want to write a thank you note to presumptive Speaker of the House John Boehner, for helping Wojnarowicz’s work get the attention it so richly deserves.
Haven’t we been here before? Folks, I don’t want to be a smug asshole, but apparently this is what happens when we let Republicans have control of Congress. They invent enemies to crusade against instead of solving our real problems, which are legion. The fact that this time the target of their bullying is a gay artist who wasted away from a heartbreaking disease almost twenty years ago should tell you everything you need to know about their so-called values.
UPDATE: David Wojnarowicz might not be around anymore, but thankfully we have Joey Veltkamp, who just posted an amazingly heartfelt essay about the issue. Read it here.