How the Institutional Racism of Yesterday Still Reverberates Today
Over the last few weeks, art communities worldwide have rallied against the controversial decision to remove a video by David Wojnarowicz from Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, an exhibit exploring LGBT issues that's currently on view at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in Washington, DC. Spearheading the unpopular decision are Republican congressmen John Boehner and Eric Cantor, who told the Smithsonian to "be prepared to face tough scrutiny beginning in January" if they didn't remove Wojnarowicz' piece (in other words, cut it out or bye bye government cash).
The video in question, entitled A Fire in My Belly, displays brief images of Jesus with ants scurrying across his crucified form— an image Christians have taken issue with. The right-wing politicians view the video as an affront on all the good (Christian) boys and girls during the most Christmas-y time of the year, labeling it "hate speech." In reality, the artist intended the video as a comment on the LGBT community's struggle with AIDS— a disease that took Wojnarowicz' life in 1992. Rather than demonizing Jesus, Wojnarowicz is equating the martyr's slow, painful death with that of an AIDS victim— an equation which, if understood by the right-wing politicians, would demand a bit of compassion toward the LGBT community.
Joining the increasingly-vocal dissenters of the NPG's decision to censor Wojnarowicz' film, local institutions Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA), Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), and the Museum of Contemporary Craft (MoCC) have teamed up to bring awareness to the issue. On Friday, December 17 at 6 pm, "a panel discussion on art and censorship" will convene at The Lab at MoCC (724 NW Davis St). Panelists include Kristan Kennedy (PICA), Stephanie Snyder (Reed College), and Matthew Stadler (Publication Studio). Wojnarowicz' A Fire in My Belly will be screened the night of the panel, as well as at PICA's Resource Room (224 NW 13th Ave, #305) through February 11.
In case you were curious, here's an excerpt from A Fire in My Belly (this one is definitely NSFW, or like, if you're eating pancakes or something):
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