Recently the Smithsonian removed the video A Fire in My Belly by David Wojnarowicz from their exhibit due to the fact that House Republicans and the Catholic Church claimed it was anti-catholic and could be considered hate speech. Unfuckingbelievable.
Disclaimer: Though I graduated with a B.A. in Fine Arts and took far too many modern art and art history classes, sat through way too many self-important and egotistical critiques, I am usually not a fan of contemporary art, especially video art. For the most part I find it obnoxious, pretentious, and often wonder if the artist chose to do video art, performance art or modern art in general due to their lack of drawing and painting skills. So trust me, this is not a rant about what makes art. This is a rant about hypocrisy.
A little background: David Wojnarowicz (wow that’s a name) died in 1992 at the age of 37. He was a rebellious modern artist, often graffiti-ing walls, painting garbage cans and creating art around areas known to be frequented by gay men looking for anonymous sex. David was gay and in 1987 his former lover died of complications from AIDS. Soon after David learned that he had also been infected with HIV. The video that has come under question and complete censorship was exhibited in the Smithsonian’s “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture”. After being diagnosed with HIV, David’s art began to capture the struggle of being a gay, HIV positive person in the 80’s. The video in question depicts the crucifix crawling with ants and images of certain saints. William Donohue, of the Catholic League, which has caused the ridiculous uproar and call for censorship, has dubbed this video hate-speech.
NEVERMIND THE CONSTANT OFFENSIVE, THREATENING AND INHUMANE TIRADES OF THE CATHOLICS, AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH SPECIFICALLY AGAINST HOMOSEXUALS. Not only does the Catholic Church condemn homosexuality, they condemn the use of condoms which, when used correctly, prevent HIV from spreading. For the Catholic Church to talk about hate speech is just utterly ridiculous. Jerry Falwell once wrote:
“[homosexuals are] brute beasts…part of a vile and satanic system [that] will be utterly annihilated, and there will be a celebration in heaven.”
This is just one example of the “hate speech” perpetrated against gays. For the Catholic Church to come out and say that Wojnarowicz’s work should be removed because they find it to be “hate speech” is hypocrisy at its best. How about we remove the exhibit once the Pope comes out and deems homosexuals to be as lovable and moral as sunshine and butterflies?
If we forget about the fact that this work of art is about what it’s like to be a homosexual, and a homosexual that’s HIV positive, I would also like to note that the work is not “hate speech” but free speech.” When did any work of art become famous because it was conventional? Or followed all the rules? The Catholic Church commissioned artists to paint the saints and bible stories before artists really had any choice in the matter. But where would we be now if art had, excuse the pun, stayed within the lines? Or if anything we use or see today had not evolved? Ah…evolved. Now I see the problem.
I just honestly cannot believe that, in this day and age, the Smithsonian has actually pulled the video from the exhibit. How dare they. I know that museums are not the last bastions of truth and morality- that everything is paid for by somebody. Grants and curators hold sway in the art world as much as corporations do in the political sphere. Yet, isn’t it innately hypocritical, even oxymoronic, for art to be censored in the art world? If Piero Manzoni can shit in a can, then literally call it Artist’s Shit, and then have that shit exhibited…or breath in a bunch of balloons and call it Artist’s Breath- then surely no one has any say anymore as to what art IS.
The Catholic Church is a cruel, regressive, tyrant. You cannot condemn homosexuals, then condoms, and then through a hissy fit when one of those homosexuals who then dies of AIDS has something to say about the whole idea. You simply can’t. You shouldn’t.