Thursday, December 16, 2010

Queer History Censored

I regret having to write this rather depressing follow up to my post on Hide/Seek, an exhibition of queer portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

For several weeks, a controversy has been brewing. Upset by the mere existence of the exhibit, a right-wing Catholic group stirred up some entirely disingenuous anger over the inclusion of David Wojnarowicz's video "A Fire In My Belly." The National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian chose to cave almost immediately to the pressure exerted by a hateful minority, erasing the pain and suffering of AIDS from history, and showing how little has changed between the creation of One Day, This Kid... and now. New York Times writer Frank Rich is absolutely right when he calls it gay bashing.

Now artist A.A. Bronson has requested that his work, "Felix, June 5, 1994" be removed from the exhibit.

Felix, June 5, 1994

Here is the letter he sent to the Director of the National Portrait Gallery:

Dear Martin Sullivan

I have sent an email to the National Gallery of Canada requesting that they remove my work “Felix, June 5, 1994″ from the “Hide/Seek” exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery. I had resisted taking this step, hoping that some reconciliation could be reached regarding the censorship of the David Wojnarowicz video, but it is clear that this is not coming any time soon. As an artist who saw first hand the tremendous agony and pain that so many of my generation lived through, and died with, I cannot take the decision of the Smithsonian lightly. To edit queer history in this way is hurtful and disrespectful.

yours truly,
AA Bronson
Artistic Director

Bronson was a member of the General Idea art collective in Toronto, along with Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal. Partz and Zontal died of AIDS in 1994. Their art, as well as the collective's papers are housed by the National Gallery of Canada.