Join Date: Aug 2004
Local Time: 12:51 AM
Bill Donohue once again reminds all those sniveling, ingrate artistes
out there who really holds the copyright to the image of Christ crucified:
Washington Post, Dec. 1
Officials at the National Portrait Gallery on Tuesday removed a work of video art depicting Christ with ants crawling over him after complaints from a Catholic organization and members of Congress. The four-minute video, created by the late artist David Wojnarowicz, had been on exhibit since Oct. 30 as part of a show on sexual difference in American portraiture. The piece was called "hate speech" by Catholic League president William Donohue and a misuse of taxpayer money by a spokesman for Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the presumptive incoming House speaker.
...An 11-second portion of the video shows a small crucifix covered with ants. The video is included in the exhibit, "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture." ...Wojnarowicz, an artist in New York's East Village scene of the 1980s, was 37 when he died of AIDS in 1992.
...The exhibition, which opened Oct. 30, was funded by the largest number of individual donors for a Portrait Gallery show. The show, which cost $750,000, was also underwritten by foundations that support gay and lesbian issues.
..."The calls and e-mails are suggesting that this was deliberately offensive on the part of the Smithsonian and we had it up during the Christmas holidays to be deliberately sacrilegious," [Smithsonian director Martin] Sullivan said.
...The Catholic League objected to the "homoerotic images" and said the exhibition offended Christians. Donohue, in an interview Tuesday after the video was removed, said he had watched it on YouTube and that "the material is vile." He called on the House and Senate appropriations committees to reconsider future funding for the Smithsonian. "My immediate concern has been relieved. But this is hate speech," Donohue said. "It is designed to insult. This is a sad commentary on the judgment of the Smithsonian."
In an interview with the Washington Post
, Donohue also compared
Wojnarowicz's film to spray-painting a swastika on a synagogue.
(Incidentally, Wojnarowicz was the creator of the 'Buffalo' image used on the cover of U2's "One.")
Andrew Sullivan responds: (Wojnarowicz's video included)
I got to see the extraordinary and powerful exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery, Hide/Seek, over a week ago. It's impressive, subtle and involving. It is about American portraiture's navigation of sexual difference and homosexuality in the twentieth century. From Paul Cadmus and Thomas Eakins to Annie Leibovitz and Andy Warhol, it's a fascinating glimpse into how gay artists managed to be honest in their work, even while being constrained by society's strictures of what could or could not be presented in public. So much of it gains strength from its codedness; in many of the portraits, it takes a while to see what is really going on. And yet there are also pieces of quite shocking frankness and beauty.
...For me, the portraits from the era of AIDS, of mass death in the teeth of great hostility, fear and discrimination, struck home most powerfully. That is when I came of age as a homosexual man, and it is what necessarily soldered my heart to those of my brothers and sisters. It was an anguished and angry time, and few portrayed that as graphically as David Wojnarovicz. His self-portrait--his gaunt, dying face half buried in dust--brings back the cold, deathly panic of the time. And his 30 minute video, "A Fire In My Belly," is a stream of visual consciousness about his dying, his grief at his friends' dying, his fear and his anger.
And it is this that has now been withdrawn from the exhibit because the Catholic League's blowhard, Bill Donohue, called the video--absurdly--something "designed to insult and inflict injury and assault the sensibilities of Christians," and John Boehner jumped when pulled by Donohue's string.
Well, I'm a Christian and far from feeling insulted or injured or assaulted, I saw something as raw as it was orthodox. The whole video incorporates the image of Jesus as a dying, tortured man like those with AIDS: "unclean" as the audio shrieks over the image, rejected, covered by insects. It splices that image with grotesque attempts to sew a loaf of bread back together, to sew a human being's lips back together, along with desperate images of fire and decay. We are looking at the hysterical images of a dying man suddenly surrounded by the dying, overcome by the attempt to sew life back together. To see a rejected Jesus left on the cross and on the ground to be covered by ants, is, in this context, clearly neither offensive nor heresy; it's orthodoxy, for Pete's sake, with the death of Jesus one of countless images of suffering and isolation.
As Blake Gopnik notes:
The irony is that Wojnarowicz's reading of his piece puts it smack in the middle of the great tradition of using images of Christ to speak about the suffering of all mankind. There is a long, respectable history of showing hideously grisly images of Jesus--17th-century sculptures in the National Gallery's recent show of Spanish sacred art could not have been more gory or distressing--and Wojnarowicz's video is nothing more than a relatively tepid reworking of that imagery, in modern terms.This is so obvious in context that one simply wonders what on earth the fuss could be about. Maybe what is truly offensive to men like Donohue is the notion that gay men might actually seek refuge in Jesus' similar experience of marginalized, stigmatized agony. Since the message cannot be objectionable--Jesus shares in our suffering and exemplifies it--maybe it is merely the association with gay men that appals. For the powerful and privileged like Donohue, Jesus belongs in the corridors of power and respectability, among the mainstream, depictions of him restricted to images of pristine, prissy reverence rather than the alienated, despairing, naked agony he actually suffered. The idea that Jesus died for homosexuals is insulting to Donohue; but it is what the church teaches and what Jesus lived. Which is why this reflexive, culture war spat is so depressing, so sad, so illustrative of how the alleged defenders of Christianity do not understand it at all. And how even after all these years, these young men, tens of thousands of whom died in agony or alone, are still despised, ignored and feared by men like Donohue and Boehner. ...