Friday, December 3, 2010
What Would Jesus Censor?
This exhibit features 105 works of art, including pieces by Georgia O'Keefe, Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns. It also featured a four-minute video by artist David Wojnarowicz, called Fire In My Belly, which was meant to symbolize the suffering of a person with AIDS, according to the artist. However, it aroused the ire of Catholic and other conservative groups for its depiction of homosexual and religious images, specifically one image of Jesus on the cross covered in ants. Due to the controversy surrounding the video, the Smithsonian museum decided to pull the work from the exhibit.
official statement from the NPG Director, it's obvious that the museum caved to right-wing political pressure. Shame on them!
Should Congress hold power over what is displayed in our museums? Should CNSNews? Should the President of the Catholic League, who decried the video as "hate speech"? Does this reek of censorship? If the Smithsonian judged these works of art to have enough merit to be included in the exhibit, they should stand behind them, each and every one. Removing even one piece because it was deemed offensive to someone is censorship. What is the function of art in a free society? Is it just to beautify and elevate or can art evoke thoughts or feelings in the viewer that may be uncomfortable or even negative?
I'd be willing to bet that many of those who objected to Wojnarowicz's video hadn't even watched it. It was originally a 30 minute video, which was edited to 4 minutes for the museum exhibit. I watched a slightly altered version on YouTube. The 11 seconds of the ant covered cross was hardly the most noticeable image within this video. The entire video is a nightmarish compilation of disturbing imagery, some of which is religious, some of which is sexual, and some of which, at least to me, is indecipherable. I can't say I enjoyed it. Is it offensive? Who knows? It sure ain't a date movie!