CMCI’s Dr Richard Howells has been in the USA to discuss the American National Portrait Gallery’s removal of David Wojnarowicz’s film “A Fire in My Belly” from its “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” exhibit. The Catholic League and two Senators complained about a clip showing ants crawling over a crucifix. The removal of the film triggered a national controversy over the film’s censorship.
The screening and discussion took place at Carnegie Mellon University’s Center for the Arts in Society (CAS), a collaborative organization that supports a project exploring controversy in the arts. Howells was joined on the panel by Jonathan Katz, co-curator of the “Hide/Seek” exhibit and chair of the Visual Studies Program at SUNY, David Dombrosky, executive director of CMU’s Center for Arts Management and Technology, and Andrea Deciu Ritivoi, associate professor of English at CMU.
“By screening ‘A Fire in My Belly,’ we join in a national movement of universities, museums and other cultural institutions that have also done so as a gesture of support for Wojnarowicz’s artistic legacy and one of concern over the implications of the film’s censorship at the Smithsonian,” said Paul Eiss, CAS director. “We also take this as an opportunity to open a discussion of controversy in the arts, and especially of the place of arts censorship — whether high-profile or behind the scenes — in curation. Is censorship ever justified?”
Dr Howells joins Professors Andreea Ritivoi and Judith Schachter in co-editing a collection of essays titled Outrage! Art, Controversy and Society, due out with Palgrave in 2012.