Not thrilled about successful efforts by conservatives (and Republican lawmakers) to pressure the Smithsonian into pulling the late David Wojnarowicz’s “ants on AIDS-y Jesus” video work from the museum’s National Portrait Gallery Hide/Seek exhibit, shit stirrers Michael Iacovone and Mike Blasenstein hit up the venue on Saturday to awaken the banished art with an iPad strapped to the chest.
The pair distributed a release that reads:
D.C. resident Mike Blasenstein displayed the work, “A Fire in My Belly” by gay artist David Wojnarowicz on an iPad at the entrance to the Gallery’s “Hide/Seek” exhibition. The video about living with AIDS in the 1980s was removed November 30 by Smithsonian officials after pressure from an anti-gay group and members of Congress. Friend and local artist Michael Dax Iacovone documented the protest.
“I was dumbstruck that this kind of thing could happen in 2010,” said Blasenstein. “I’d never heard of David Wojnarowicz before, but the more I learned about him, the more I realized that the same forces trying to suppress his work and cut his funding when he was alive were still trying to silence him today. Suddenly I realized that ‘Silence = Death’ wasn’t some retro relic, but something that made it possible for me as a gay man to enjoy whatever acceptance and protections I have today. I wanted to make sure that this man who died 18 years ago wasn’t swept from view again—especially from an exhibition professing to honor the marginalized,” Blasenstein added.
Less than 10 minutes into their protest, Blasenstein and Iacovone were detained by Smithsonian security. Washington, D.C. police then arrived, and permanently barred both men from setting foot on any Smithsonian-owned property on penalty of immediate arrest. They were then escorted from the premises.
Which is a shame, because I had just rushed into the room with my 3-D glasses, and I was dead set on being wowed.