Smithsonian censorship; Bronson wants out
A little Saturday morning institutional intrigue: You may have heard about the big stink that erupted when The Smithsonian, in Washington, immediately caved to pressures from the Catholic league, as well as a handful of Republican congressman, to remove an AIDS-themed video piece by David Wojnarowicz from its current show at the National Portrait Gallery.
Not surprisingly, museums like the Tate have lined up in support of Wojnarowicz's artistic freedom, offering to show the piece at earliest opportunity. But that's not all. In a show of solidarity, artists like AA Bronson, of General Idea, have asked pulled their own work from the show, called "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture."
The Smithsonian issued a release last week saying it stands "firmly behind" the show. Except for that troubling Wojnarowicz, I guess. The piece, which shows, among other things, ants skittering all over a crucifix, "was perceived by some to be anti-Christian," the Smithsonian said. It was removed "because the attention it was receiving distracted from the overall exhibition."
Meanwhile, the museum has said that Bronson's piece, above, a large photograph of General Idea mate Felix Partz's withered corpse, dressed and tucked into bed, shortly after his death from AIDS ("Felix, June 5, 1994," above) will not be returned, according to the museum, as it wishes to "keep the exhibition intact," according to a spokesperson. "Felix" is on loan from our National Gallery in Ottawa.
Anyway, the fallout continues. Both the Warhol Foundation and the Mapplethorpe Foundation have pulled all further funding of the Smithsonian until the Wojnarowicz is re-installed in the exhibition -- an obvious no-brainer for the Mapplethorpe organization, who have had their run-ins with conservatism in Washington before. Stay tuned ...