Melon Farmers Original Version

Fire in my Belly

Banned art at the Smithsonian

5th June

Update: Museum of Censored Art...

Award for temporary exhibit of art banned by Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Mike Blasenstein and Michael Dax Iacovone, creators of the one-month-only Museum of Censored Art, have received the John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award for intellectual freedom by the American Library Association, one of the most well-known anti-censorship organizations in the country.

The museum was responsible for showcasing the censored film, A Fire in My Belly , by gay artist David Wojnarowicz. The video was originally a part of the gay and lesbian art exhibition Hide/Seek at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, and contains an 11-second segment that shows ants running on a crucifix.

After the film was banned by Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough, Blasenstein and Iacovone set up a trailer in front of the institution's National Portrait Gallery, where the film was shown along with other exhibits concerning the controversy about the film. The exhibits included a timeline of the Smithsonian's censorship and one that contrasted Clough's words and actions.

Almost 6,500 patrons came to visit the trailer, which was open from Jan. 13 to Feb. 13, the last day of the Hide/Seek exhibit.

The award will be given June 25 to Blasenstein and Iacovone in New Orleans at the association's annual conference.


22nd January

Update: Proper Bollox...

Art censor claims his censorship was not properly censorship

G. Wayne Clough, head of the Smithsonian Institution, has acknowledged that he acted too quickly before deciding Nov. 30 to remove a controversial video from an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

In an interview after a long-planned speaking engagement in downtown L.A., Clough said the decision to remove David Wojnarowicz's 1987 AIDS-protest video, A Fire in My Belly , on the same day that two top Republican congressmen had complained that the exhibition offended Christian sensibilities, was the most painful thing I've ever done, but denied it could properly be called censorship.

Clough said threats of budgetary consequences by House Speaker John Boehner and House majority leader Eric Cantor played into his decision, but a primary concern was preventing a media pile-on that would hijack the exhibition by turning the discussion away from the art on display and make it an excuse for a heated and polarizing debate of tangential issues.

Clough spoke proudly of Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture being the first major museum exhibition devoted primarily to gay and lesbian artists' sensibilities.


14th January

Update: Museum of Modern Censored Art...

Museum of Modern Art acquires A Fire in My Belly

The Museum of Modern Art announced the purchase of the controversial video exhibit featuring an image of Jesus on a crucifix covered in ants that was pulled from the Smithsonian Institute's National Portrait Gallery last month.

The New York museum have announced their acquisition of David Wojnarowicz's original 13-minute version of A Fire in My Belly, and a 7-minute excerpt, MoMA Director Glenn Lowry said.

The work was included in an exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery, sparking an outcry from some conservative members of Congress and organizations including the Catholic League, which culminated in its removal from the gallery.

The current debate surrounding the removal of the piece from the National Portrait Gallery exhibition brought the work to our attention and provided us with an opportunity to look more closely at it and to deepen our engagement with this artist by adding it to our holdings of his work, MoMA said.

The work is described as a collage of images filmed primarily during the artist's travels to Mexico, it combines footage from a number of sources that refer—often in graphic detail—to death, social inequality, faith, and desire. It is now housed in MoMA's Contemporary Galleries with other works made during the AIDS crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s.


7th January

Update: Museum of Censored Art...

Opens outside the National Censored Portrait Gallery

Anyone who missed David Wojnarowicz's A Fire in My Belly before it was removed from the National Portrait Gallery exhibit Hide/Seek on November 30 will soon be able to see it right outside the museum.

Mike Blasenstein and Michael Dax Iacovone, who were detained on December 6 for playing the video on an iPad in the NPG lobby, have followed through on their promise to host a temporary gallery for censored work.

They've now obtained the permits they need to park a trailer outside the Gallery's F Street NW entrance. The Museum of Censored Art will be open seven days a week, from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (mirroring NPG's hours), until Hide/Seek closes on February 13.

The City Paper quotes Iacovone as saying, we haven't said anything to NPG, but I suspect they're going to find out real soon.

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