Friday, December 24, 2010

Post Commentary Sparks Revisionist Art

The Washington Post published a commentary by Phillip Kennicott in today's Style Section that got me thinking about the recent art/censorship/gay controversy surrounding a video created by the artist David Wojnarowicz, and subsequently removed from the National Portrait Gallery exhibit, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.

The dustup was sparked by Bill Donohue, president (and apparently the only member of) the Catholic League who vehemently attacked Wojnarowicz's video A Fire in My Belly as being anti-catholic. His real agenda appears to be to stoke the tiresome culture wars that continue around homosexuality in this country, and Mr. Donohue is quite successful in that regard. He set an anti-gay trap for the exhibition and for the Smithsonian, and R. Wayne Clough, Secretary of the Smithsonian walked right into it.

And R. Wayne Clough just kept right on walking. He's been silent on the issue ever since he made the decision to remove the video. The controversy (air quotes), the anti-catholic message (ironic air quotes) of the video stems from an approximately eleven second segment which shows ants climbing over a crucifix. Donohue took this segment completely out of the context of the remainder of the video, and denounced the whole piece as being anti-catholic. And Mr. Clough went along for the ride, feeling that it was better to appease the Catholic League, then to let museum goers make up their own minds.

Mr. Kennicott in his commentary calls for Mr. Clough to resign his post as Secretary. Kennicott further states that the curators of the exhibit should honor AA Bronson's request to have his work, Felix, June 5, 1994, removed from the exhibition in protest over the censoring of Wojnarwoicz's video. Indeed, the huge blank wall at the end of the exhibition would bear mute testimony to something, but I'm not sure to what. I have a better idea.

The curators should remove Felix, June 5, 1994 from the exhibition. Then they should nail R. Wayne Clough to the wall in its place. It serves the catholic need of Mr. Donohue, and it certainly is Roman in its application of justice. It will also please the masses.

R. Wayne Clough after the exhibition curators added him to "Hide/Seek"