San Francisco's Arts Centers Unite Against Censorship, But Where's the SFMOMA?

On December 1 (World AIDS day of all days), this 1987 film piece, A Fire in My Belly by the artist David Wojnarowicz (who died of AIDS) was removed from the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait Gallery exhibition entitled Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture. The publicly funded Smithsonian Institution was politically bullied by Catholic League president William Donahue, who called the film “hate speech” when he misinterpreted a shot of ants crawling on a crucified Christ as anti-Catholic. On December 3rd, on behalf of the estate of David Wojnarowicz, P.P.O.W. Gallery released an official statement addressing this controversy in order to illuminate the artists original intentions. The statement reads:

In a 1989 interview Wojnarowicz spoke about the role of animals as symbolic imagery in his work, stating “Animals allow us to view certain things that we wouldn't allow ourselves to see in regard to human activity. In the Mexican photographs with the coins and the clock and the gun and the Christ figure and all that, I used the ants as a metaphor for society because the social structure of the ant world is parallel to ours.”

Further, adding more hate than Serg's war against burritos are top GOP House members John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Eric Cantor (R-VA), who threatened the Smithsonian Institution's finances by cowardly flexing their political muscles if the Institution did not remove the film from the exhibition. Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said, “Smithsonian officials should either acknowledge the mistake and correct it, or be prepared to face tough scrutiny beginning in January when the new majority in the House moves [in].”. Cantor, the #2 Republican in the House and the #1 little bitch labeled the exhibit “an obvious attempt to offend Christians during the Christmas season.” Unbeknownst to Cantor, he is actually offending every single gay and straight allied person in America by furthering the hatred and misinterpretation of Wojnarowicz's work.

Seems like a lot of bah humbugs going on from the right-wing these days, and the political censorship of the freedom of speech/expression must be stopped. Starting this Friday night, two arts organizations in San Francisco will join the alliance of museums and arts centers around the country for a national protest over the removal of Wojnarowicz's A Fire in My Belly. SF Camerawork and the Queer Cultural Center will present a 7 p.m. screening of the film, followed by a presentation by art historian, writer, and activist Robert Atkins. Atkins will then provide historical background concerning political censorship and lead a panel discussion that will include queer activists, scholars, and artists. The discussion will culminate with Jonathan D. Katz, curator of Hide/Seek, joining the discussion from New York via Skype. The Yerba Buena Center for the Arts will also screen this film Friday night continuously from 11pm until 2am in YBCA's Screening Room.

David Wojnarowicz, Untitled,1988-89, drawing/ gelatin silver print and acrylic on paper

But what is the SFMOMA doing to acknowledge their support of Wojnarowic's work as the only museum in San Francisco to own a work by the artist in their permanent collection? On Tuesday I was at the SFMOMA when I came across an exhibition entitled, The More Things Change, which opened just 10 days before Hide/Seek. The exhibition's mission statement reads, “revealing the museum's collection as a seismograph of shifts in contemporary culture, this continually evolving exhibition considers how the past persists in the present and how art engages with the world at large.” The work seen above is the Wojnarowicz from SFMOMA'S collection. Untitled is a piece that depicts a film still of a Mexican man missing the bottom half of his legs and the image on the right of the piece is a small drawing that Wojnarowicz did of legs to give to the man. Most of the footage in A Fire in My Belly was shot in Mexico on a trip Wojnarowicz took there, and it has been confirmed by the people of P.P.O.W. Gallery who represent the estate of Wojnarowicz that the still in Untitled was most likely from that time in Mexico.  I realize that the goal of The More Things Change is to use works made in the last decade, however, what better way to acknowledge the fact that their collection really does persist in the present and engages with the world at large than by adding Untitled to that continually evovling exhibiton? What about placing that piece in the show accompanied by A Fire in My Belly to contextualize the works importance with a statement by the curators explaining why Wojnarowicz is relevant to the present as his work is once again in the spotlight of a major national debate?

I'm extremely happy to see so much support from the San Francisco community against the censorship of artistic expression in the United States, but SFMOMA can do better. If you cannot make either of the screenings this weekend, you can watch the vimeo of A Fire in My Belly at the top of this post.

  • UPDATE: SFMOMA is set to provide the public with a free screening of A Fire in My Belly on Tuesday, January 4th at 5:30pm with a discussion to be held directly after. 

To learn more about this work, the artist, and the controversy surrounding the film and exhibition please check out the links provided below:

Spreading Christmas Cheer at 16th and Mission

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' 

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

California Is Way Sad

What's making bathroom sharpie California so sad?  Is it the budget crisis?  Is it that it has broken off into the ocean and is sad it can no longer snuggle with the warm bosom of Nevada?  That L.A. is still attached?

Maybe the answer is more obvious: the artist is sad that they reside in New York City.  Or that they just ran out of toilet paper and they are sad that they are about to fuck up their Made-In-LA American Apparel undies with poop stains.

Either way, California is totally bummed.

(photo by OMFGNYC, which is a tumblr about living in the not-so-upset New York City)

Confessions of a Nogaholic

My first Fall in San Francisco, I was introduced to a drinking contest fit only for masochists and the insensible.  No, I'm not talking about Whiskey Wednesday, I'm talking about a marathon soy nog drinking contest.  The rules were simple: as soon as soy nog, the vegan version egg nog, was made commercially available, each person had to drink as much as possible before Christmas day.  The winner of the contest was awarded the respect of his peers and the cost of a wider pair of jeans.

I was young and naive then.  A lad of 23 years of age, believing I could conquer the world.  The forefather of this competition was a maniacal vegan who went by the name of John, who was rumored to have once consumed over 900 popsicles in a Summer on a bet.  Surely I of no eating contest experience could take him down.

As competition began in November 2007, I quickly established a pace of one liter of nog a day.  After all, nog washes down a PB&J quite well.  But it wasn't enough.  Neil and Matt were easily polishing off 2 liters a day.  In an attempt to catch up, I guzzled 4 liters in one evening.  Later, the judges ruled that nog that was later retched up could not be counted towards one's total.

Shopping patterns were studied.  Competitors would go to Rainbow 30 minutes ahead of their opponents to clear the shelves.  Soon it was learned that Whole Foods carried a nog containing 60 calories less per liter than that of Rainbow's.  So we went there instead, clearing out the shelves.

Taunting photos of nog stockpiles were emailed around.  Pictures of one's Tetrapack body count were common.

Meals were completely replaced by nog.  Milk and cereal became nog and cereal.  Later, just nog.  Friday night beers became nog and rum.  Or “Nog Russians.”  For the desperate, “vodka nogs.”  Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen, on! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen!  Get thy to a liquor store!

I ended up losing the competition by a mere 2 liters to Neil, but at least I bested John “900 Popsicles” C.'s record.

Ahem.  Sorry, what was the point of this?  Oh yeah, Fabric8 is hosting a “Nog-In” on Dec. 18th, in which they will crown who in the city makes the best nog.  While it should be a good time, you should beware; that shit can get out of hand fast.

(More info on the Nog-In at SFoodieYou're the man now, Nogg. photo by Laura Beck)


Out: The Glenn Burke Story Opens Tonight at the Castro Theatre

 Glenn Burke 

On the heel of World Series fever here in San Francisco, a different look at the game is being screened tonight in the Castro Theatre. Out: The Glenn Burke Story is a film about a man who made two major marks on major league baseball history  way back in 1977. At the end of the season in '77, after former Giants coach and then teammate Dusty Baker hit a homerun, Burke gave Baker a high-five. Later when Burke hit his first homerun, Baker returned the high-five favor, cementing Burke as the creator of the now universal sign of recognition, triumph, and comradery— the high-five. Also in 1977 (1977 people!) Burke became the first openly gay baseball player in MLB history when he disclosed to teammates and the managerial staff at the Los Angeles Dodgers that he was a homosexual.  At the time, one of the most conservative teams in baseball, the Dodgers went so far as to offer Burke a bonus to get married to a woman to keep his homosexuality a secret, which he declined. He later dated Dodgers Manager Tony Lasorda's estranged gay son before being traded to the Oakland Athletics, despite helping the Dodgers make it to the World Series. As if we needed another reason to hate the Dodgers…

To this day, Burke is the only openly gay baseball player in MLB history. Go see his story tonight.

More Info: Movie trailer.  Order tickets.

One Day This Kid...

David Wojnarowicz (1954 — 1992), Untitled (One Day This Kid…), 1990

Before you read any of this, stop. Read the text surrounding the little boy in the image above. Great, thanks.

On October 28th, Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes wrote that the artist David Wojnarowicz seems important right now. Green authored this post about Wojnarowicz, the New York artist who gained notoriety in the East Village art scene of the 1980s, in wake of hearing about the rise of anti-gay bullying and the gay teenage suicide epidemic sweeping our nation. Wojnarowicz's work was created 20 years ago, but as we have seen so recently, his words are still very relevant. I'm also pretty sure that any person growing up LGBT or questioning can attest, anti-gay bullying is nothing new to the community. But finally, there's some major action going on to spread the word that It Get's Better.

In his post Green called for the Museums that have Wojnarowicz's Untitled (One Day This Kid…) in their permanent collection to place the piece on display immediately in order to engage the public with this honest depiction of growing up gay in America. Apparently, none of the five museums Green listed have placed this work on view yet. However, the amazing people at P.P.O.W. Gallery who represent Wojnarowicz's estate are doing their part to use the power of art to effect change in our communities. The above piece Untitled (One Day This Kid…) is now available for download through this site. As Wojnarowicz's said in his book Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration, “bottom line, if people don't say what they believe, those ideas and feelings get lost. If they are lost often enough, those ideas and feelings never return.” So read it, print it, post it, share it. Because sharing is caring, and in this case it might just help save some lives.

One Man's Unique Stand Against SFPD

There I was, just hanging out at 22nd and Mission, waiting for us to raid Skechers USA Footwear Outlet so I cop me a hot pair of Shape-Ups or maybe some bath towels from Anna's, when the riot police came up Mission and ruined the fun.  As they began to occupy the intersection, one shirtless man stood in the front-lines resisting their presence.  “What the hell is that guy doing?” I thought to myself.  “Oh, that's a penis.”

Happy 70th Birthday John Lennon, Love San Francisco

In case you haven't noticed on Google yet, today would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday. In honor, go ahead and feast your eyes upon this amazing footage of John and Yoko being led around San Francisco by Geraldo Rivera's mustache circa 1972. Seriously, this video is awesome.