The art world is often known for a lack of sincerity. This is not entirely true, but it is also not untrue. An embracing of sarcasm and irony not only in the art world, but in popular culture, have managed to distance individuals from each other. Ideology in art is hidden behind hipness and style or abandoned for fear of being criticized; expressions of love are couched in hackneyed phrases quoted form movies; protest is set aside because no one wants to be caught being sincere; dogma overrules dialog because it is more easily quoted and requires less self-examination.
On this Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, let us remember what it is like to believe, hope, and be sincere—to stand up for something because it is a personal truth and not dogma; to disagree and agree, not because others do, but because we have pondered and wrestled with the issues; to have open dialogs rather than closed monologues; and to love our fellow men (and women) even if we disagree with them.
Now through February 13, 2011, SPACES will be screening the censored David Wojnarowicz film A Fire in My Belly in The Vault, SPACES' digital audio/visual space.
The National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian made a decision on December 1, 2010 to remove from the exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture (http://npg.si.edu/exhibit/hideseek) a film by the artist David Wojnarowicz. Their decision was made after protests lead by the Catholic League and several members of Congress. In particular, the scenes in the film that the Catholic League found offensive were views of ants crawling over a figurine of Christ on the cross.
Wojnarowicz is no stranger to controversy, as much of his art dealt with AIDS and H.I.V. during the 1980s. A Fire in My Belly, the film in question, was made from 1986 to 1987, a particularly tumultuous time for the artist. In 1987 Wojnarowicz's mentor and lover died of AIDS, and David learned that he himself was H.I.V.-positive. Drawing from his personal experiences in Catholic school and his travels, Wojnarowicz said that he used the imagery of Christ to "make a symbol that would show that [Christ] would take on the suffering of the vast amounts of addiction that I saw on the streets. And I did this because I saw very little treatment available for people who had this illness."
SPACES stands by the estate of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W. gallery in calling an end to single-sided debates and censorship regarding AIDS, H.I.V. and queer identities in favor of information and dialogue. SPACES presents for the public two versions of the film A Fire in My Belly so that the public may be informed and decide for themselves where they stand on the issue.
David Wojnarowicz, A Fire In My Belly (Film In Progress) (film still), 1986-87, Super 8mm film, black and white & color (transferred to video). Courtesy of The Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W Gallery, New York and The Fales Library and Special Col
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