It is with bittersweet nostalgia that I reminisce about the first wave of culture wars unleashed by the exact same usual and deplorable suspects 22 years ago on the likes of Mapplethorpe (whose body was still warm), Frank Moore (whose physical state as a CP quadriplegic was never entered into the congressional record although his name was), Karen Finley, Annie Sprinkle, et al; and any institution that dared show them. Now a combination of Republicans flexing their newly endowed muscle and administrative cowardice has revived those horrid times with the yanking of a video and threatens to go even further in decimating free speech and public art funding in America.
Many institutions around the Bay Area have shown excerpts from the cause célèbre work and latest target of the Conservative Movement’s contempt and wrath A Fire in My Belly by the late David Wojnarowicz. SFMOMA will be screening the full 13-minute version of the video - shot on Super 8 film in 1986/87 - on January 4th, to be followed by a discussion including Rudy Lemcke (artist), SFMOMA curators Rudolf Frieling and Dominic Willsdon and others.
The piece is a thoughtful and pained meditation on manhood, sickness and being an American in a xenophobic foreign land, an unnamed Mexican boarder town. Bristling sensitivity to myth and pop culture is the main character. All of Wojnarowicz’s themes: death, nihilism, mysticism, sexual tension are represented in graphic simplicity though detached but keen photography and ingenious montage. And not a genuinely shocking or disturbing moment to be found. Just heartbreaking poetics.
Oh, to be able to ask one of these defenders of Christianity whether they would rather their child see ants on a plastic Jesus or the much lauded snuff film The Passion of The Christ?
Here we go again.
January 4th, Phyllis Wattis Theater
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Free and open to the public
State-run and curated by Fan Di’An, Li Lei, Gao Shiming (for the first time, all Chinese nationals), the 2010 Shanghai Biennale’s theme is “Rehearsal.” Much of the work makes transparent the art of exhibition/performance and the creative process. At the Shanghai Art Museum, there are 52 individual artists and artists’ groups/collectives from about 21 countries, the largest group (19) predictably, from China, 18 from Europe, and 10 from other Asian countries. The remaining are from Australia, Cuba, and the United States (surprisingly only from the East Coast given the West Coast’s proximity and Shanghai’s sister city status with San Francisco). In the short time I was there, the stand-outs for me were sculptures by Mu Boyan, particularly from his Fat series (reminiscent of Lisa Yuskavage, but taken to an entirely different level), the paintings by Liu Xiaodong, along with supplemental materials of how they were created, and the painting installations, a unique way of presenting painted canvases, attempting to capture how media images absorb us, by MadeIn (CEO: Xu Zhen).
The Shanghai Biennale closes January 23, 2011 at the Shanghai Art Museum in People’s Park and includes off-site venues (at 128 West Nanjing Road and 79 & 107 South Suzhou Road) for Place – Time – Play: India-China Contemporary Art Exhibition.