02 December 2010

If everybody should see this art, why aren't you posting it?

There is a Libertarian lesson in here.

For about two days I have been hearing of "censorship" at the National Portrait Gallery related to a video of ants crawling over a Jesus figurine.  The "censorship" amounted to tax-paying patrons complaining about the tasteless excuse for art and associated complaints of wasting tax dollars.  It is not like anybody mentioned drawing pictures and got enough death threats to go into hiding.  No truck driver attacked the images as if they were of Mohamed giving oral pleasures to Jesus either.  No, nothing like that, just some complaints about a public display of Jesus on public property.  Good thing the artist did not show Jesus in a manger, then the tables would be turned!

I learned on "conservative" talk radio that the video is now on display in the front window of a Dupont Circle gallery, but I did not catch the name of the gallery.  A Google news search for "jesus ants dupont" gave me this gem by Tyger Latham: Tis the season for controversy : Washington Blade – Gay News

Do not bother going there to see a still of the art in question, or even a link to the YouTube video of Fire in My Belly.  Yes, this "censored" work is available online with a mouse click.  It is supposed to be thirty minutes long, but that version is a few seconds over four minutes.  YouTube requires you to sign in due to the adult nature of the video, there is a lot more to it than just ants crawling on a Jesus figurine.  Brace for complaints of YouTube 'censorship' too, since you have to actually sign up for an account to see it there.

There is only one link in the article, and that link is for the CNS News article The Washington Blade is complaining about and they have a still from the video:
Fire in My Belly, courtesy CNS News
Do not bother going to the Blade article for other images from Hide/Seek either.  You need to go to CNS for those too.
Brothers kissing at gunpoint, courtesy CNS.
Do not bother going to the Blade article looking for the new location of Fire in My Belly either.  Transformer Gallery now displays Fire in My Belly on a video screen in the front window for all to see (1404 P Street Northwest, Washington D.C., DC 20005-1908), which I discovered by listening longer to "conservative" talk radio.  Not as easy as going to YouTube, but if nobody knows it is on YouTube, the gallery might get a few more visitors.  They do not know what censorship is either.  Here is a sample:
In early response to the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Institution's censoring of David Wojnarowicz's 1987 video work A Fire in My Belly, from the current Hide/Seek exhibition, Transformer initiated a screening of the work in our storefront project space at 1404 P Street, NW, Washington, DC. The work currently on view is an approximately four minute excerpt of the original thirty-minute work in progress by the artist.
If you are interested in another generous portion of whine, go to the gallery link and read the rest there.  Why they 'censored' more than twenty-six minutes from the work is anybody's guess.  Mine guess is, they are 'boldly and bravely' using the approximately four minute YouTube version.  The Smithsonian is not censoring this and neither is anybody else.  They chose to remove that portion of the display and the Smithsonian was displaying the entire video.  I have not heard of anything else being removed from Hide/Seek.

Do not bother going to the Blade article unless you are interested in wasting time reading a multi-paragraph, disingenuous whine about social conservatives wanting to keep art away from the masses.  Do you know who else tried to do that?  Yes, the Nazis are mentioned.  In the piece, Tyger Latham closes with a 'Just like the Nazis' moment, dredging out Degenerate Art (entartete Kunst), brought to you by the National Socialist German Worker's Party, as a curious example of how Americans complaining about tasteless displays make them just like Nazis.  Maybe Latham means CNS is like the Nazis because they will show you what the Washington Blade will not?

Latham does give a concise description of the video, at the end of paragraph two:
Fortunately, if you are anything like me, looking at “ants crawling over the image of Jesus on a crucifix” or “… a man’s genitals, a bowl of blood, and mummified humans” sounds pretty intriguing and not an entirely bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Latham might find that a fun outing, but many would disagree.  That material, and Latham's idea of fun, is better viewed/done in an adult bookstore, private club, or online.  Perhaps Latham is not aware of those.  Numerous fiction works at the BDSMlibrary (where I have one story posted and recently submitted another) contain that imagery.  Mummification should be under one of the bondage categories.

If you are looking for ads targeted at the GLBT community, by all means, click on this: Tis the season for controversy : Washington Blade – Gay News

The Libertarian lesson?  If you want to display your art, do not go begging the government for permission.  Private galleries are much more difficult to censor, and should not be censored. the Transformer Gallery is freely displaying the video that they chose to edit.

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  1. It is illegal to post pictures of paintings that are covered by copyright without permission. So, why aren't they posting them? Legally, they don't have the right. That would be why.

    Apparently, the Blade cares more about respecting intellectual property than CNS, who thought stealing images was just peachy. Which is not surprising--it seems like the most ardent defenders of morality and/or private property gleefully appropriate intellectually property whenever they feel like it (including the Catholic League's recent appropriation of the atheist organization's pro-secularism billboard, which the atheists have graciously decided not to pursue them for.

  2. Marjorie,

    The issue here is a false claim of censorship.

    As for your off topic rant, you have a strange interpretation of copyright. One that excludes fair use. If your version were fact, no picture of a car accident could be published without permission of the manufacturer (every logo on every car is copyrighted), no picture of any natural street scene could be published without permission of every shop owner represented in the frame (logos on businesses) and the list goes on. If you are so adamant about fair use not existing, then stop using words others have used, in any context and see how that works out for you.