Written by Adora & Teddy Behr Friday, 11 February 2011 00:00
Teddy Behr: Adora, did you see the video link I sent of David Wrojanowicz's “A Fire in My Belly” that was withdrawn from the show on Gay Portraiture at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in December?
Adora: Yes, it's amazing. Apart from the fact that it could have been made yesterday instead of in 1987, it's so fierce. Why was it pulled out of the exhibition?
T: The Catholic League and some Republican senators didn't like the image of a crucifix with ants crawling on it. So they got it pulled out by threatening to take away funding for the gallery. It's bureaucratic censorship really. But the video is so apocalyptic and it includes images from some other religions too. Of course, that's the one they singled out.
A: And the video was really about AIDS, wasn't it? His lover was dying and he was infected too when AIDS was still a very nasty death sentence and the government was ignoring it.
T: Exactly. David Wrojanowicz died in 1992 but the video is such a testament to the terror and despair the gay community felt then. Even though the reactions of the religious right can be really knee-jerk, the fact that the video still upsets people is an indicator of how powerful it still is. A lot of contemporary art loses its shock value fast but this video has a really scary quality. I guess it's about fear really.
A: The thing that struck me was that they pulled this video out of the show when another of the images is a mouth sewn shut, so it was about censorship and being silenced too. So pulling it out of the show really validates this part of the video. But the people who did it probably didn't even realize that they were affirming the premises of the video's content.
T: I bet you're right.