Archive for December, 2010

Fire in Our Bellies, Ants in Our Pants

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

Pictures from the successful protest on December 19, 2010 against the Smithsonian’s descent to rabid censorship:

Onward Christian Soldiers - the crowd stretched from the Met to the Cooper-Hewitt Museums

Crossing Fifth Avenue

Death by Audio

Protestor X!

Lisa Phillips of the New Museum, which is showing Wojnarowicz' video

"This is what your parents used to do!" says Jerry Saltz

Artist Nayland Blake and "it's-complicated" friend

Conclusion at Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum

Totem Recall

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

“I wrote to the National Portrait Gallery this evening requesting that they remove my work “Felix, June 5, 1994” from the “Hide/Seek” exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. As an artist who saw first hand the tremendous agony and pain that so many of my generation lived through, and died with, I cannot take the decision of the Smithsonian lightly. To edit queer history in this way is hurtful and disrespectful.” -AA Bronson on his Facebook page, 12/16/2010

This heroic artist and artworld fixture has made a bold, soul-searching resolution about his landmark work.  The work itself deserves the periodic attention it has received here and abroad.  In New York alone, I’ve spotted it at the 2002 Whitney Biennial, the Terence Koh lecture from 2009, and the current Whitney Museum show Singular Visions.  Interesting that the work is owned by the National Gallery of Canada.  How would that privately-funded institution respond to the Wojnarowicz controversy?

AA Bronson, Felix, June 5, 1994, 1994/99

What he said:

“I made this photograph of Felix a few hours after his death. He is arranged to receive visitors, and his favorite objects are gathered about him: his television remote control, his tape-recorder, and his cigarettes. Felix suffered from extreme wasting, and at the time of his death his eyes could not be closed: there was not enough flesh left on the bone.”

He continues:

“Felix and Jorge and I lived and worked together from 1969 until 1994. This communal life ended when Jorge died of AIDS on February 3, 1994. Felix followed shortly after, on June 5, 1994.

Since Jorge and Felix died I have been struggling to find the limits of my own body as an independent organism, as a being outside of General Idea. Over the last five years I have found myself, much like a stroke victim, learning again the limits of my nervous system, how to function without my extended body (no longer three heads, twelve limbs), how to create possibilities from my reduced physicality.

I have had to place Jorge and Felix and General Idea at a distance. This has been difficult, like escaping from my own skin.

Dear Felix, by the act of exhibiting this image I declare that we are no longer of one mind, one body. I return you to General Idea’s world of mass media, there to function without me.”

The other Felix: Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled, 1991, one of 24 billboards

To exhibit Felix was AA Bronson’s progress toward reconciliation and letting go of the kindred spirit he lost.  One can only imagine the haunting pain he feels every time he agrees to exhibit the work, opening and re-opening those wounds, again and again.  By recalling Felix from the Smithsonian, AA isn’t just reclaiming his artwork.  He is reattaching himself to the Dead, a morbid grafting, which must be as horrific as waking up next to his corpse.

Stephen Kaltenbach

Thank you, AA Bronson, for making this gut-wrenching and meaningful gesture.  I will always remember the first time I saw Felix in personl!  Visitors to Hide/Seek should know how fortunate they are to see this phantom limb of yours.
UPDATE: The kid stays in the picture

Fire in My Smithsonian

Monday, December 6th, 2010

The National Portrait Gallery wants you to get off its lawn:

Ed Ruscha, "Los Angeles County Musem on Fire," 1968

Guilt (re-post)

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

I am reposting this after the original post, “Catholic’s Guilt” went missing.

Artist-martyr David Wojnarowicz is vital and relevant today, World AIDS day, eighteen years after his death. Being included in the “first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture” is part of it. Being banned from the show is more of it.

In response to Hide/Seek at the National Portrait Gallery, the Catholic League cried foul over Fire in My Belly, a Wojnarowicz video “that shows large ants eating away at Jesus on a crucifix.”

And if Christovoric ants are not enough to ruin your museum visit, “the exhibit is replete with homoerotic images.” Imagine that! Homoerotic images in a show about gay and lesbian art! And who mastered homoerotic art? Catholic artists paid by the Medici.

Donatello's very gay David

In fact, the “large ants” appear only in fragments of “Fire in My Belly.” And they aren’t “eating away at Jesus.” They are crawling over a crucifix, one probably mass manufactured and of a type available for purchase at any church gift shop or Christian bookstore. If you want to protest the ingestion of Jesus, then stop by any Catholic mass. Eating the flesh of Christ – the actual flesh, not a plastic figurine – is a weekly ritual.

Republican leaders, such as John Bo–ner, want you to believe that your hard-earned tax dollars are paying this vile, homoerotic art. In fact, the exhibition has been privately funded. Taxes just cover the museum’s operating costs. Many more of your tax dollars are in Afghanistan, either paying gravediggers or vaporizing in corrupt pockets. And Catholic institutions shouldn’t complain, because they don’t pay taxes.

Washington Catholics used the homeless as hostages in their crusade against the D.C. Council to preserve the sanctity of discrimination against gays. It’s better that the homeless should starve than two adult women should marry each other. Principles before people!

Maurizio Cattelan, La Nona Ora, 1999

It’s a good month for a canonized gay artist to further diversify his portfolio of immortality. In the last two weeks, the Pope has softened his refusal to use condoms and the Pentagon concluded that gay soldiers wouldn’t bring down the Army. Gays are less a marginalized exception and more an inextricable contingent.

 

Martin Selloutvan (Copyright: Smithsonian)

Falling from hero to goat is Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough. Rather than defending the museum’s obligation to preserve and present critically important art – whether or not we like that art – Clough complacently caves in to the church. The Smithsonian gained great credibility by providing a major platform for an under recognized legacy in art history and revealing these stories to a wider audience. Now it’s losing that same credibility by selling out one of the figures who sustained – and still does sustain – this legacy. G. Wayne Clough blew it. Living artists with work in the show – and their lenders of the work – should publicly demand that their entries be removed.

After Wojnarowicz

The big winner here is David Wojnarowicz. The Catholic elite, who you’d think would have a better understanding of the afterlife, seem to forget that controversy fuels immortality. Every time they complain, an artist angel gets his wings.

Catholic’s Guilt

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Artist-martyr David Wojnarowicz is vital and relevant today, World AIDS day, eighteen years after his death.  Being included in the “first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture” is part of it.  Being banned from the show is more of it.

In response to Hide/Seek at the National Portrait Gallery, the Catholic League cried foul over Fire in My Belly, a Wojnarowicz video “that shows large ants eating away at Jesus on a crucifix.”

And if Christovoric ants are not enough to ruin your museum visit, “the exhibit is replete with homoerotic images.”  Imagine that!  Homoerotic images in a show about gay and lesbian art! And who mastered homoerotic art?  Catholic artists paid by the Medici.

Donatello's very gay David

In fact, the “large ants” appear only in fragments of “Fire in My Belly.”  And they aren’t “eating away at Jesus.”  They are crawling over a crucifix, one probably mass manufactured and of a type available for purchase at any church gift shop or Christian bookstore.  If you want to protest the ingestion of Jesus, then stop by any Catholic mass.  Eating the flesh of Christ – the actual flesh, not a plastic figurine – is a weekly ritual.

Republican leaders, such as John Bo–ner, want you to believe that your hard-earned tax dollars are paying this vile, homoerotic art.  In fact, the exhibition has been privately funded.  Taxes just cover the museum’s operating costs.  Many more of your tax dollars are in Afghanistan, either paying gravediggers or vaporizing in corrupt pockets.  And Catholic institutions shouldn’t complain, because they don’t pay taxes.

Washington Catholics used the homeless as hostages in their crusade against the D.C. Council to preserve the sanctity of discrimination against gays.  It’s better that the homeless should starve than two adult women should marry each other.  Principles before people!

Maurizio Cattelan, La Nona Ora, 1999

It’s a good month for a canonized gay artist to further diversify his portfolio of immortality.  In the last two weeks, the Pope has softened his refusal to use condoms and the Pentagon concluded that gay soldiers wouldn’t bring down the Army.  Gays are less a marginalized exception and more an inextricable contingent.

 

Martin Selloutvan (Copyright: Smithsonian)

Falling from hero to goat is Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough.  Rather than defending the museum’s obligation to preserve and present critically important art – whether or not we like that art – Clough complacently caves in to the church.  The Smithsonian gained great credibility by providing a major platform for an under recognized legacy in art history and revealing these stories to a wider audience.  Now it’s losing that same credibility by selling out one of the figures who sustained – and still does sustain – this legacy.  G. Wayne Clough blew it.  Living artists with work in the show – and their lenders of the work – should publicly demand that their entries be removed.

After Wojnarowicz

The big winner here is David Wojnarowicz.  The Catholic elite, who you’d think would have a better understanding of the afterlife, seem to forget that controversy fuels immortality.  Every time they complain, an artist angel gets his wings.