MoMA Gets Some Intestinal Fortitude

BY ANDY HUMM | The Museum of Modern Art has acquired the late David Wojnarowicz’s short film “Fire in My Belly” (1986-87), a work removed from the gay-themed “Hide/ Seek” exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, after objections from the right-wing Catholic League and top congressional Republicans about a few seconds of the film showing ants crawling over a crucifix.

The film was Wojnarowicz’s mournful commemoration of the death from AIDS of his close friend artist Peter Hujar.

MoMA has the original 13-minute version of the video, but also a seven-minute excerpt created by Wojnarowicz, which is on display in the museum’s “Contemporary Art from the Collection” exhibition on a video monitor. The monitor sits on the floor alongside the late Marlon Riggs’ 1991 video “Anthem” about the black gay experience. The late poet Essex Hemphill can be seen on the monitor.

Like Hujar, Wojnarowicz, Riggs, and Hemphill all died of AIDS.

The “Contemporary Art from the Collection” exhibition, with approximately 130 works drawn from across the museum’s collections, “highlights the debates around economics, politics, gender, and ethnicity that have permeated artistic practices since the late 1960s,” according the MoMA website. It runs through May 9 (11 W. 53rd St.;

If the Catholic League wants something else to get upset about, also on exhibition is an untitled 1987 Albert Oehlen work of a man in a diaper on a cross.

An untitled 1991 work by Wojnarowicz pictures himself as a child and warns of the hell a kid who “discovers he desires to place his naked body on the naked body of another boy” will go through in life. That theme can be interpreted today in many ways, but let’s hope there has been some progress from the perspective of “it gets worse” toward the faith that “it gets better.”