In response to the Smithsonian’s censorship of an artwork by the late David Wojnarowicz, PICA (Portland Institute of Contemporary Art) convenes a panel discussion on art and censorship with a coalition of local art institutions and individuals.
On November 30, 2010, the National Portrait Gallery removed David Wojnarowicz’s video “A Fire In My Belly” from the exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference And Desire in American Portraiture in response to Bill Donohue, President of the Catholic League, incoming House Speaker John Boehner, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s declaration that the video is a form of “hate speech.” The Smithsonian was wrong to dignify these slanderous accusations and this manufactured outrage.
In life, Wojnarowicz was a victim of bigotry and sustained campaigns by the religious right to revoke funding for the arts during the Culture Wars of the late 80s and early 90s. His art—and “A Fire in My Belly,” in particular—dealt eloquently and powerfully with the issues of being an openly gay man in America, and the harsh realities of living with HIV/AIDS. Wojnarowicz died in 1992 of AIDS-related complications.
In solidarity with a growing number of organizations and artists across the country, PICA and the participating local institutions will also each screen “A Fire in My Belly” at their respective spaces and will provide a selection of books and related materials for the public to learn about the controversy and the life and work of Wojnarowicz.
Thank you to the Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York, for making the video available for screening.
Special thanks to Julia Haas, Jonathan D. Katz, and Alison Maurer for coordinating Hideseek.org and the national effort to draw attention to the issue.
About David Wojnarowicz
Wojnarowicz (pronounced voy-nah-ROH-vitch) worked in many media, often mixing them together, to produce an art that was distinguished by its rage and its spirit of personal longing. His paintings, photographs, installations, performances and writings railed against the status quo as they also mourned death. He dealt not only with AIDS, but with many other issues, both public and private.
Participating Institutions and Individuals
Kristan Kennedy, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art
Stephanie Snyder, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Gallery, Reed College
Namita Gupta Wiggers, Museum of Contemporary Craft
Matthew Stadler, Publication Studio
Todd Tubutis, Blue Sky Gallery
Portland State University Art Galleries
Charles Voorhies Fine Art Library, Pacific Northwest College of Art
Doug Blandy, University of Oregon Arts and Administration Program