Saturday, June 4, 2011

QUEER FOOD FOR LOVE does David Wojnarowicz

For the National Queer Arts Festival in San Francisco for 2011, we were invited to create food for an arts & culture lecture by Jonathan Katz, gay art historian and curator of the Smithsonian exhibit “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture" at the National Portrait Gallery. Katz co-curated the exhibit, "the first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture":

'Hide/Seek' considers such themes as the role of sexual difference in depicting modern America; how artists explored the fluidity of sexuality and gender; how major themes in modern art were influenced by social marginalization; and how art reflected society’s evolving and changing attitudes toward sexuality, desire, and romantic attachment.

The exhibition was marred by controversy in 2010 when right-wing conservatives pressured the Smithsonian to cut footage from a 1987 film by David Wojnarowicz in the gallery, a few seconds of which depicted ants on a crucifix. The scene was meant to be a commentary by a prominent gay artist on the suffering of people with AIDS in the 1980's. Religious conservatives, fueled by homophobia, attacked the work by the gay artist as hate speech against the Church, dismissing its artistic merit on the grounds that such art made by gays was a waste of taxpayers money and should be banned.

Word of the Smithsonian's censorship spread, and in late 2010 a number of protests were staged around the country, honoring Wojnarowicz's work, and showing an unedited version of the film, which is now considered an historically important work about AIDS at a time when most people considered it a "gay disease" and turned a blind eye to the communities it killed.

To welcome queer art historian Jonathan Katz, Queer Food For Love served "Ants on a Cross," in face masks depicting David Wojnarowicz's face, whose lips are sewn together, as a visual metaphor for the 1980's ACT-UP slogan, "Silence=Death."

Queer Food For Love celebrates the queer resistance to art censorship and perseverance of gay artists to make historically relevant work that chronicles the lives of queer people. Viva la resistance, let them eat ants.

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