Happy World AIDS Day, everyone. Last night, the Smithsonian National Gallery removed A Fire in My Belly, a 1987 video art piece by the downtown artist David Wojnarowicz (who died of AIDS in 1992), because of pressure applied by incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner, responding to Christian groups who objected to the image of ants crawling over a crucifix in the LGBT-themed video.
Back during the end of history, when the Christian Right had less geopolitics to worry about, this stuff used to happen all the time, as we were recently reminded when Todd Haynes’s National Endowment for the Arts-supported Queer Cinema landmark Poison was revived. But at least when Jesse Helms tried to break the NEA, during the Bush I years, Karen Finley was actually alive. We’ve long known that contemporary American conservatism is less an intellectually coherent ideology than it is hollow suits disingenuously repeating long-disproved Reaganite talking points for a frightened electorate—but who suspected that the GOP of 2010 couldn’t even find its own culture wars to fight? David Wojnarowicz was an arts-funding martyr two decades ago. In this interview, he talks about his own experiences with federal arts funding and those who would suppress it. To the barricades!