Monday, December 20, 2010

A Fire in My Belly

David Wojnarowicz
"A Fire In My Belly"
Removed from the Smithsonian Institute 
Now showing at the New Museum

It is Christmas and I know that I should be be presenting more bright and uplifting Art, I apologize. Instead I am showing shots from "A Fire In My Belly" because I think it is IMPORTANT.
This might be the most political Art Piece today and it was made in 1992.... The artist died of Aids the same year. In November the Smithsonian Institute removed the silent movie from their exhibit "Hide/Seek difference and desire in American Portraiture". The Catholic Church pressured them into removing it. 

I want to warn you that the pictures bellow are strong, but I am still a defender of free speech and surprised that a religious institution can have this power over an Art institution.
I therefore think it was brave of the New Museum to react quickly and show the silent movie immediately in their lobby. 
When I look at these pictures that I took I feel that they are even more disturbing than when I actually watched the film... Not because my pictures are good, but because you can stop up and stare at the shot, in the movie everything happens fast. The shot with the ants crawling over Christ happens within a few seconds.

According to Diamanda Galas (the famous singer/composer) a friend who was an inspiration behind this movie:

"Ants are only one of the many insects and animals that cover a man removed from his village and deposited in a leper asylum. There would also be maggots and rats and crows. David was gentle I must insist."

Bellow are shots from the film:

Disturbing, but also with a strong message for those that suffer!

I must admit that I am nearly scared of posting this post. I hope that "A Fire In My Belly" will make you understand the power of free speech and that it is important that we keep it for our future.
I also do think that the Catholic Church by being so offended by the film that they demanded it removed from a public institution made the message even stronger. It also makes people like me more curious about what Bill Donohue calls "Hate Speech" really is about.

David intended it to be "a Poetic meditation on humanity, life, death, faith and suffering made in part as a response to the AIDS related death of his good friend Peter Hujar"
        -New Museum

With Love


  1. I am glad you posted this- I only learned about this work when the controversy stirred a couple of weeks ago- I watched the film and did not feel it in the least bit offensive. In fact I went away from it thinking 'good they made such a fuss it will make more people aware of it'-

  2. That is so very interesting and you are right, I cant stop looks at those images and they really send a very strong message:)
    Happy Monday,sweetie
    All ready for the Holidays?

  3. Thanks for telling us about this important piece.

    Free speech is essential.


  4. These are quite scary, I have to admit. But thanks for posting them! :)SarahD

  5. very disturbing indeed!!! but i agree with you on the whole suffering thing...

  6. wow definitely something powerful here... now time for some holiday cheer? lol :)

  7. very disturbing and intriguing all at once! im curious to know more about this piece...thanks for sharing dear!

  8. Ytringsfrihet er noe man må verne om uansett hva som kommer ut av det, om man åpner for sensur så vet man aldri hvor det kan ende...

    Og en god jul til deg også - koooos deg :)


  10. I'm with you Krisitn. I think in the name of preserving our field keeping the awareness of pieces like this up is more important than worrying about those who may be offended by it. I could hop on a soap box here, but I'll spare you and just say this: If we can't even count on an art museum to be spared the pressures of the church in the name of something powerful and painful that exists where do we win? I'm so glad the new museum picked it up. Washington is a conservative city, but I am just outraged sometimes that despite the separation of church and state politicians, and then others influencing the mass population find themselves more popular for siding with the church. Grrrrrr...

  11. Just discovered there has been demonstrations going on about this outside the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the last few days!

  12. I'm actually so touched that you posted this here! I read about the controversy and couldn't believe the Smithsonian would bow to religious pressures. I actually hope all the media attention will boost awareness of this work in the best sense - exposing people directly to it so they can make their own assessment of an artwork (as they should be!)

  13. First, The Roman Catholic Church (as any individual or institution) has a "right" in giving their opinion on what offends........If I find something offensive, I will choose (or not) to offer my opinion. This is healthy. How many movies have I seen that The Church has stated that it was offensive? Too many! lol.

    It then becomes the Smithsonian Institution's decision on whether or not they choose to act. The responsibility is 100% on them. However, are you saying that they are "not allowed" to make their own decisions? They are not allowed to change their mind? Is free speech only guaranteed to the artist?

  14. Interesting comment! Yes, of course the Catholic League is allowed to condemn the film, so could anybody else. To voice an opinion or a feeling is what Art should do! The problem is that the Smithsonian was showing and wanted to show the film but bent to the warning of the Catholic League that they would not be supportive to Smithsonian if they continued to show the film. The Catholic League then began to pressure Senate to reconsider the funding of the Smithsonian and that is where it becomes political and wrong.
    The Smithsonian did not dare to show the film anymore because of the political pressure. This is where it becomes dangerous, what will then be next? Will Smithsonian dare to put up controversial art again? Will other institutions be met by the same pressure?
    We might not like the message of a vision but we do need to protect our
    freedom of speech.
    It is an answer to Leviticus Chapter 15 from The Old Testament
    When any man hath an issue of his flesh.
    Because of that issue he is unclean....
    .... he shall separate them in their uncleanness....

    ( in this case about not being accepted as gay and having Aids)

  15. Very creepy but a very good message behind it.

  16. I'm really surprised that the Smith would succumb to pressure like that!

  17. So only private institutions can have a freedom to change their mind?

    TV show "A" is littered with gratuitous violence. P&G says to network XYZ, "pull my ads from that timeslot....and actually, if you air that show at all, we will go elsewhere."

    it is now and always "XYZ" choice. They make the choice.

  18. what about Amazon's decision to pull this guys book?

  19. I know it is a hard line to cross. What is acceptable and what is not.
    I have by example always been surprised how lenient TV is to violence but when it comes to nudity which is natural they are much more strict.

    When a person mean harm it is not acceptable, with kids or racist etc. but David did not mean harm if I am not wrong he was a Catholic himself and wanted to prove a point at how difficult it was to be one and accepted since he was guy and had Aids. A protest also to how The Catholic church condemns condoms...

    Good question, is only public institutions allowed to make a choice and change their mind?

    Money, is as usual and instigator of power.

    The most important is that we dare to stand up and protest so we can stay free! It is scary when the government bans Art! Some of these people probably never even watched the film...

  20. Kristin,
    Bravo for posting this! I haven't seen this work so can not comment on it's artistic intent. It is alarming that an exhibition a museum felt worthy to show publicly was then pulled due to pressure from a religious institution.
    I thought stuff like that only happened here in the South! :-)) It is important to discuss these issues. Thank you!

  21. Not censored by me:)

    Thank you for all of your comments and reactions:)

  22. Lots of discussion on this. By design of my personality I'm not political or social with my images. Often these works will push the envelope, elicit a reaction, and then we're all caught up in the predictable whirlwind of press/outrage that ensues. These two sides need each other and are in a bizarre state of equilibrium. Had there been no complaint/censorship about the work, no one would have ever heard of it. I suppose every once in a while this just has to happen...

  23. Kristen,I cannot comprehend violence versus nudity, either. Let's look at some mass killer chopping off your head, but an exposed breast is "no-no"......I would appreciate your views either here and/or privately.....

  24. The Youtube video does not represent David’s film. Galas and Wojnarowicz never met and did not collaborate. The Youtube posted film is illegitimate and was not the version pulled from the Smithsonian. Please correct and link to the original films on the P..P.O.W. gallery vimeo channel.

    (resources below)

    “No less important, he maintained, is the unreliability of the Internet as an archival resource. To demonstrate this last point, Nayland noted that a search for Wojnarowicz’s Fire in My Belly on YouTube turns up a version that Marvin Taylor, founder and executive director of NYU’s Fales Collection, described as an unauthorized travesty—“a mess.”

    “Amy (Scholder) Amy likened her experience of watching the YouTube version of David’s film to trauma—for its lack of fidelity to historical fact, and for its fabricator’s disregard for the integrity of the works by each of its makers.”

  25. I am not quite sure about how to interpret this last message! I have watched the original film at the New Museum and the pictures are mine, from watching it there.
    The New Museum (and the Washington Post etc. etc) states that Galas was an inspiration to the movie. She says he was inspired by the music that she composed: "This is the Law of the Plague".

    Thank you for the adding the new articles.