Pasatiempo - - Mixed Media -

Slow-burn­ing fire

The Santa Fe Art In­sti­tute has been screen­ing David Wo­j­narow­icz’s con­tro­ver­sial film A Fire in My Belly in a con­tin­u­ous loop since Jan. 18. Made 25 years ago, the art­work, like the artist, has had a con­tro­ver­sial life, mov­ing from the mar­gins to the cen­ter and back again. Late-1970s through 1980s: Wo­j­narow­icz be­comes a well-known fig­ure in New York’s vi­brant down­town art scene, pro­duc­ing Su­per 8 films and sten­cils and col­lab­o­rat­ing with un­der­ground artists like Nan Goldin and Kiki Smith. 1985: Wo­j­narow­icz’s work is ex­hib­ited in the Whit­ney Bi­en­nial along­side that of many street and graf­fiti artists. 1986-1987: Wo­j­narow­icz cre­ates A Fire in My Belly, an orig­i­nal 13-minute film as a re­ac­tion to his HIV-pos­i­tive diagnosis and the death of his lover and men­tor, pho­tog­ra­pher Peter Hujar. The film evokes the suf­fer­ing of AIDS vic­tims at the height of the cri­sis in the U.S. and fea­tures vivid de­pic­tions of the frailty of hu­man flesh along­side a provoca­tive im­age of ants crawl­ing over a cru­ci­fix. 1989: The Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts cancels fund­ing for a cat­a­log of Tongues of Flame, a Wo­j­narow­icz ex­hibit at Illi­nois State Univer­sity.

in 1990: Tupelo, Wo­j­narow­icz Mis­sis­sippi, suc­cess­fully for us­ing cropped sues the im­ages Amer­i­can of his Fam­ily work As­so­ci­a­tion in a pam­phlet crit­i­ciz­ing the Na­tional En­dow­ment for the Arts.

July 22, 1992: Wo­j­narow­icz dies of com­pli­ca­tions re­lated to AIDS.

Oct. 30, 2010: In Wash­ing­ton, D.C., the Smith­so­nian’s Na­tional Por­trait Gallery de­buts Hide/Seek: Dif­fer­ence and De­sire in Amer­i­can Por­trai­ture, which ex­plores les­bian and gay iden­tity in Amer­i­can art through­out the 19th and 20th cen­turies and in­cludes a four-minute ex­cerpt of A Fire in

My Belly.

Nov. 30, 2010: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) con­demns the film, and, along with Ma­jor­ity Leader Eric Can­tor (R-Vir­ginia), calls

for Hide/Seek to be shut down. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Can­tor calls the ex­hibit “an outrageous use of tax­payer money and an ob­vi­ous at­tempt to of­fend Chris­tians dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son.”

Dec. 1, 2010: The Smith­so­nian re­moves the film af­ter crit­i­cism from the Catholic League, a non­profit which is not an of­fi­cial part of any Catholic dio­cese. League pres­i­dent Wil­liam A. Dono­hue calls the film “hate speech.”

Dec. 4, 2010: Mike Blasen­stein en­ters the Smith­so­nian’s Na­tional Por­trait Gallery with an iPad hung around his neck dis­play­ing A Fire in My Belly. For his ac­tions, Blasen­stein is banned for life from the in­sti­tu­tion.

Dec. 13, 2010: The Andy Warhol Foun­da­tion an­nounces that, un­less Wo­j­narow­icz’s work is re­stored to the ex­hibit, it will cease fund­ing Smith­so­nian ex­hibits. Over the last three years, the foun­da­tion has given ap­prox­i­mately $375,000 to the Smith­so­nian, in­clud­ing $100,000 to fund

the Hide/Seek ex­hi­bi­tion.

Jan. 21, 2011: Smith­so­nian chief ex­ec­u­tive G. Wayne Clough ad­mits to

the Los An­ge­les Times that he gave the or­der to re­move the film with­out hav­ing viewed it. Con­tin­u­ous screen­ings of A Fire in My Belly take place at the Santa Fe Art In­sti­tute’s Pro­jec­tion Room, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on week­days. On Feb. 25, the in­sti­tute hosts C*nsor­ship: A P*nel Dis­cuss**n, fea­tur­ing Robert Atkins, Roberto Be­doya, Har­mony Hammond, and Lucy Lip­pard, who ex­am­ine the Smith­so­nian case as well as other ex­am­ples of cen­sor­ship in the art world. The talk starts at 6 p.m. at Tip­ton Hall on the cam­pus of the Santa Fe Univer­sity of Art and De­sign, 1600 St. Michael’s Drive. Tick­ets are $10, $5 for stu­dents and se­niors. For in­for­ma­tion, call 424-5050.

— Casey Sanchez

Left, David Wo­j­narow­icz: Untitled (Face in Dirt), circa 1990, gelatin sil­ver print; above, screen­ing of Wo­j­narow­icz’s A Fire in My Belly at the New Mu­seum in Man­hat­tan; im­ages (ex­cept above) cour­tesy The Es­tate of David Wo­j­narow­icz and P. P. O.W. Gallery, New York

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