Art News: Andy Warhol: Motion Pictures at MoMA and New York’s Smithsonian Censorship Protest

21 Dec


Currently running at MoMA till March 21, 2011 are Andy Warhol’s black and white silent films, both daring and experimental in their subject and theme. Although these films were originally shot at sound-film speed (twenty-four frames per second), Warhol specified that prints be projected at a slower speed of sixteen frames per second, a rate used in the projection of silent films from the 1890s through the 1920s.

Kiss 1963–64. 16mm film (black and white, silent). 54 min. at 16fps.
© 2010 The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a museum of Carnegie Institute.

For this exhibition, a selection of Warhol’s films made between 1963 and 1966 has been transferred from 16mm film to DVD at the speed of sixteen frames per second, and projected onto screens and monitors in a gallery setting. This makes it possible to see the works as Warhol intended, and to appreciate the ways in which he challenged and provoked both subject and viewer in his manipulation of moving images.


Hundreds of people massed at the steps of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art December 19th to march on the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum on 91st Street and Fifth Avenue in protest to the pulling artist David Wojnarowicz’s 1987 video work A Fire in my Belly from the hide/SEEK Exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery.

The hide/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, is the first major museum exhibition to explore themes of gender and sexuality in American art, which opened at the National Portrait Gallery. On December 1, artist David Wojnarowicz’s 1987 video work A Fire in my Belly – which was intended to articulate, among other things, the silencing and suffering of people with AIDS – was pulled from the exhibition by the director of the Smithsonian Institution. This decision was made after special interest groups and members of Congress took offense to 11 seconds of the video, which contains a shot of ants crawling on a crucifix. View full article from artinfo.

Since this incident there have been major protests in both Washington, DC and in New York city, as well as nationwide discussion panels exploring what this means in the realm of art censorship.

We attended one such event, called hide/SPEAK last night,  presented by Transformer and the Washington DC Jewish Community Center (DCJCC), an open discussion panel with Hide/Seek co-curator David C. Ward in collaboration with writer & activist Catherine V. Dawson, which discussed the events that lead up to the Smithsonian’s removal of the video from the exhibition, the events that have unfolded since the video was pulled, the social and political implications of the situation, and how the community – in all definitions and configurations of “community” – view this particular moment.

The discussion was presented as part of the Washington DCJCC’s Rapid Response series, which “seeks to periodically provide a forum, as public events warrant, to shape a quick, civil discussion on ideas that have immediate cultural relevance and about which average citizens ought to be able to speak with one another,” and as part of Transformer’s FRAMEWORK Panel Series, “which engages artists, arts professionals, cultural leaders, and audiences in conversation to create an oral ‘field guide’ to encourage and support individual emerging artists in our community, and educate audiences through the sharing of best practices within the contemporary visual arts.”

The discussion panel was videotaped and will (hopefully) soon be available from Transformer. When it does become available we shall post it up or give you the link to view it.

If you wish to see the full silent video for David Wojnarowicz’s 1987 video work ‘A Fire in my Belly‘, we have posted it below. However controversial this video is, it played a major part in the hide/SEEK exhibit as a whole. Mind you, the exhibit only had 11 seconds of this video (not the entire thing).  The 11 seconds they included in the exhibit was pulled due to the Christ imagery.

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