*Jan 18th* Screening: A Fire in my Belly by David Wojnarowicz

Posted on January 14, 2011


Tuesday 18th January 2011

Doors: 19h00

Goleb is pleased to announce the screening of David Wojnarowicz’s film A Fire in my Belly (1987). Taking place in the intimate settings of the studios, the evening will include an introductory presentation of Wojnarowicz’s work and an open invitation for visitors and artists alike to bring material they wish to screen, surrounding the topics of censorship, copyright, and free expression. DVDs and Digital files welcome.

This open call screening was triggered by news of the current censorship of David Wojnarowicz’s film, A Fire in my Belly, from the exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. After complaints from the Catholic League and U.S. Representative John Boehner that Wojnarowicz’s film was “un-Christian,” the museum ultimately made the decision to remove the work from the exhibition without permission from its curators.

As a protest to this current censorship, P.P.O.W. Gallery in New York, which manages the Estate of David Wojnarowicz, has offered distribution of this film for public screening opportunities, as a means to prevent its silencing.

A Fire in My Belly will be screened and supported in a video programme that aims to reset the original context and problematic of free (unincorporated) expression. The programme has largely been made possible through collaborative input amongst the Goleb community. For this we wish to express our deepest thanks.

Kirby Mages + Taf Hassam

“The government has the job of maintaining the day-to-day illusion of the ONE TRIBE NATION. Each public disclosure of a private reality becomes something of a magnet that can attract others with a similar frame of reference; thus each public disclosure of a fragment of private reality serves as a dismantling tool against the illusion of ONE TRIBE NATION; it lifts the curtains for a brief peek and reveals the possible existence of literally millions of tribes, the term GENERAL PUBLIC disintegrates…” David Wojnarowicz, Postcards from America: X-Rays from Hell

This screening of A Fire in my Belly has been made possible courtesy of The Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W Gallery, New York and The Fales Library and Special Collections/ New York University

Further links/Reading:





P.P.O.W and The Estate of David Wojnarowicz disagree with the Smithsonian’s decision to withdraw the artist’s 1987 film piece “A Fire in My Belly” from the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition entitled “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.” P.P.O.W has represented Wojnarowicz’s work since 1988 and maintained a close working relationship with the artist until his death in 1992. The gallery now represents his estate.

On behalf of the estate, the gallery would like to offer the artist’s words to illuminate his original intentions. In a 1989 interview Wojnarowicz spoke about the role of animals as symbolic imagery in his work, stating, “Animals allow us to view certain things that we wouldn’t allow ourselves to see in regard to human activity. In the Mexican photographs with the coins and the clock and the gun and the Christ figure and all that, I used the ants as a metaphor for society because the social structure of the ant world is parallel to ours.”

The call for the removal of “A Fire in My Belly” by Catholic League president William Donahue is based on his misinterpretation that this work was “hate speech pure and simple.” This statement insults the legacy of Wojnarowicz, who dedicated his life to activism and the arts community. David Wojnarowicz’s work is collected by international museums including the Museum of Modern Art, NY, The Whitney Museum, The Library of Congress, The New York Public Library, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Reina Sofia in Madrid, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, etc. Wojnarowicz is also an established writer; his most well known memoirs are Close to the Knives and Memories That Smell Like Gasoline, which are included on many university syllabi.

In 1990 the artist won a historic Supreme Court case, David Wojnarowicz v. American Family Association. The courts sided with Wojnarowicz after he filed suit against Donald Wildmon and the American Family Association, who copied, distorted and disseminated the artist’s images in a pamphlet to speak out against the NEA’s funding of exhibits that included art works of Wojnarowicz and other artists. We are deeply troubled that the remarks, which led to the removal of David’s work from Hide/Seek, so closely resemble those of the past. Wojnarowicz’s fight for freedom of artistic expression, once supported by the highest court, is now challenged again. In his absence, we know that his community, his supporters, and the many who believe in his work will carry his convictions forward.

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