Sexuality and Art: An often misunderstood, misguided part of history

I had the opportunity this afternoon to attend Jonathan Katz’s lecture at Tyler sponsored by the Department of Art History.*

Dr. Jonathan Katz, co-curator of “Hide/Seek” and Chair, Visual Studies Doctoral Program, SUNY, Buffalo gave a lecture entitled “Eleven Seconds out of 113 Years:  An(ant)tomy of a Conflict.” The talk, which was followed by a question-and-answer session, addressed the stakes of our repeated cultural skirmishes over the depiction of same sex desire and why Katz now understands this latest flare up as an unprecedented, and definitive, victory.

The ‘flare up’ surrounded the Hide/Seek exhibition in which an 11 second portion of a video in which ants were walking over Jesus was removed after the Catholic League complained calling the artwork “hate speech”.

The four-minute video, created by the late artist David Wojnarowicz, had been on exhibit since Oct. 30 as part of a show on sexual difference in American portraiture.

Some history: Temple University has a particular involvement in this issue: exactly twenty years ago at the height of the ”Culture Wars,” Temple Gallery hosted the exhibition: “David Wojnarowicz: Tongues of Flame” and in conjunction, held a symposium “AIDS: Issues in Representation.” Wojnarowicz, who in art and writing boldly addressed issues of same sex desire and the response to the AIDS crisis, was embroiled in several controversies. These include his essay, “Post Cards from America: X-Rays from Hell,” for the exhibition “Witnesses: Against our Vanishing”; his suit against the misleading use of cropped elements of his art by a conservative group trying to whip up support to de-fund the NEA; and the recent removal of the “A Fire in My Belly” excerpt from the NPG show.

Download Wojnarowicz’s essay as a PDF here.

*Tyler Art History wishes to thank the following for their support of this programming: American Studies; Art and Art Education; the Beasley School of Law; the Center for Humanities at Temple; Faculty Senate Lectures and Forums; Foundations; General Activities Fund; Graduate Art History Organization; LGBT and Women’s Studies; Painting, Drawing, and Sculpture; Temple Gallery; Tyler Student Life; Undergraduate Art History Guild.

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