Multimedia — Dec 17, 2010

Panel: A Fire in My Belly

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PICA, MoCC and partner organizations respond to the Smithsonian's censorship of an artwork by the late David Wojnarowicz.

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. Filmmaker Steve Doughton and artist Ramsey McPhillips shared personal recollections of Wojnarowicz, while Kristan Kennedy contextualized the conversation through the lens of the Culture Wars of the 1980s and 90s. The panel closed with a reading by Stephanie Snyder, Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Gallery, Reed College and Jesse Van Buren. Moderated by Todd Tubutis, Blue Sky Gallery. Introduction by Namita Gupta Wiggers, Museum of Contemporary Craft. This panel took place in The Lab at Museum of Contemporary Craft on December 17, 2010.

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
in partnership with Pacific Northwest College of Art

Matthew Stadler
Publication Studio

Todd Tubutis
Blue Sky Gallery

Patrick Rock
Portland State University Art Galleries

Dan McClure
Charles Voorhies Fine Art Library, Pacific Northwest College of Art

Doug Blandy and Kate Wagle
University of Oregon Arts and Administration Program

Steve Doughton

Ramsey McPhillips

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