December 10 - December 18, 2010
University Galleries of Illinois State University will screen two versions of
A Fire in My Bell
y (1986-87), a short film by David Wojnarowicz, from Friday, December 10 through Saturday, December 18. The four-minute version of the film was recently removed from the National Portrait Gallery's exhibition entitled
Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture
, the "first major museum exhibition to focus on sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture."
Appearing within Wojnarowicz's film, among images of slaughterhouses, amputees, bandaged hands, and charred bodies, is an eleven-second scene of fire ants crawling over a crucifix. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, excoriated the video as "hate speech" designed to "assault the sensibilities of Christians." Wojnarowicz's own words from an interview with Barry Blinderman in 1989 belie Donohue's simplistic interpretation of his imagery. Regarding the role of animals as symbolic imagery in his work, the artist stated: "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." (from "The Compression of Time: An Interview with David Wojnarowicz," in Tongues of Flame, University Galleries, 1990).
The four-minute edit of A Fire in My Belly will be projected continuously onto a screen visible throughout the 300-foot main hallway of the Center for the Visual Arts. In addition, the full 21-minute version will play continuously on a monitor in University Galleries' lobby. Reading materials will be available in the gallery lobby, including copies of Tongues of Flame , the book University Galleries produced for Wojnarowicz' 1990 retrospective exhibition of the same name; a scrapbook of articles and ephemera related to the Tongues of Flame exhibition; and news articles related to the National Portrait Gallery's decision.
Both versions of the film are courtesy of The Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W Gallery, New York, and The Fales Library and Special Collections, New York University.