SILENCE STILL = DEATH
I wanted to write about this, or at least mention it here, because it’s occupying my mind to the point where I feel guilty for spending two hours recording videos of myself singing songs by Ke$ha , watching a shitty horror movie, or even listening to stoner metal last night. Hell, basically the fact that I did anything other than “be angry” is making me feel guilty. But on the other hand I know that’s ridiculous, and that the unfortunate fact of the matter is being angry wouldn’t have accomplished anything. To be fair nothing I actually did accomplished anything either. I don’t know what I could have done that would have been helpful, so I guess getting the information out to people who don’t know is something I can do at least.
The above video is a 4 minute and 11 second excerpt from David Wojnarowicz’s experimental film Fire in My Belly. This is all I’ve seen of the film (in fact I didn’t even know that this was only an excerpt, as opposed to the entire film, until yesterday), but I’ve watched it a lot. Wojnarowicz is an artist that I find really powerful, both from the entire scope of his life story and in the art he produced itself.
By 16, Wojnarowicz had dropped out of high school and was living on the streets, due to a shitty home life and the terror he faced due to his own homosexuality. Homeless, he hustled for a living, eventually hitchhiking cross-country a few times before settling in NYC in the late 70s. In the 1980s he was diagnosed with AIDS.
Not to pull attention away from his earlier works–virtually everything he made throughout his visible life as an artist is amazing–but the work he started to make after being diagnosed, well, the work was angry. David Wojnarowicz was angry because he was invisible–because queers were invisible. Something that he said, that I think is really fucking just so to the point, is what follows:
”I want to throw up because we’re supposed to quietly and politely make house in this killing machine called America and pay taxes to support our own slow murder and I’m amazed we’re not running amok in the streets, and that we can still be capable of gestures of loving after lifetimes of all this.”
The thing is, he’s right. No matter how much you personally want to distance yourself from the idea of politics, of being political at all, there’s an entire world of people surrounding you that is just getting walked over again and again, even today, whether because they’re queer, or because they’re women, or because they’re poor, or because they’re old, or because they’re not white, or just because they’re different. It’s severely fucked up.
Yesterday was World AIDS Day. Google commemorated World AIDS Day by reminding their millions of visitors of Rosa Parks’s civil actions. The Smithsonian commemorated World AIDS Day by conceding to the pressures of the Catholic League & other conservative groups by removing Wojnarowicz’s video, above, from a show at the National Portraiture Gallery, where a show on the visibility of queer love is currently being exhibited. While this is ultimately ironic, it’s also fucking infuriating.
At ArtInfo, Tyler Green brings up “Ten Key Points About the Smithsonian/NPG Controversy, and I think the most relevant point is as follows:
“A key part of these events is the refusal of religious conservatives to acknowledge that gays and lesbians are Americans in full, as worthy of being studied and contextualized by historians as Catholics or Montanans. The religious right wants nothing less than for gays and lesbians to be made as invisible as possible, to be hidden or removed from our shared national history.”
I’m not sure if the conservatives who targeted Wojnarowicz’s video were trying to be clever, or ironic, or if it was just by some fucked up & convenient accident accident that this was the work they chose, but as I’ve mentioned, Wojnarowciz’s entire motivation for making art was to further the idea that queers should not be invisible.
And now, in 20-fucking-10, we have part two of the NEA/Mapplethorpe “Controversy”. This is sickening, and makes me want to walk down the streets with piles of acid to pour on the world so we can all just melt into the goddamn earth, maybe starting over again in a millennium or two. Or use the combined psychic distress of everyone who has been marginalized ever to destroy the world. Or write fan fiction about a “post-rapture world” where bigoted Christians are finally gone and Real People can live in peace. Because I’m tired of having to ignore shit like this just to be able to convince myself that doing anything is a worthy pursuit. Because if I actually remind myself of how terrible people can be I find it really, really difficult to just be alive.
So, I guess the question is, what can be done? I think it’s incredibly important that Wojnarowicz’s work remain visible, not only as a voice for disgruntled queers, but for marginalized youths in general. There are a bunch of facebook groups that you can join to show your support, or you can “write on the Smithsonian’s wall” and tell them that they’re fuck-heads. But these things seem pretty passive to me. So, I guess instead, here’s my suggestion. Tell everyone you know, everyone you meet, that this is a terrible fucking thing. Tell people who don’t care. I think it’s important that this event, this fucking shameless bowing to the Right, is visible. I think this is something that is far bigger than the artworld, because it’s fucked up. It’s a microcosm of the terrible shit that happens to both marginalized art & people on a daily basis.