WASHINGTON – Two D.C. residents believe censorship is worth protesting,but unlike their last effort,they’re unlikely to face arrest this time.
“The most important thing is to make the art visible and put it as close to the actual exhibit as possible,” said Michael Blasenstein,one of two organizers of the new Museum of Censored Art.
Michael Dax Iacovone,36,is the other.
The Museum – which houses one piece of controversial art in a trailer that occupies two parking spaces – opened on Thursday in front of the National Portrait Gallery.
The art is a video,“A Fire in My Belly,” by the late gay artist David Wojnarowicz,which was removed from the gallery’s “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” exhibit in November after protests.
The video includes 11 seconds showing ants crawling on a crucifix. The Censored Art version runs 4 minutes.
Members of Congress,including House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Eric Cantor,and organizations including the Catholic League,asked for it to be removed from the exhibit.
The gallery removed the video two months after the exhibit opened. The exhibit continues through Feb. 13.
A few days later Blasenstein,37,protested by standing at the exhibit’s entrance holding an iPad showing Wojnarowicz’s video. Dax Iacovone documented their efforts by shooting video.
Dax Iacovone,an artist who works for the D.C. school system,said they lasted about nine minutes before security guards told them they were going to be arrested if they continued.
“The Smithsonian was ready for something to happen because there was a lot of security in there,but they really didn’t know what to do with us,” he said.
Dax Iacovone said they were “bullied” into signing notices from the Metropolitan Police Department barring them from the museum.
Blasenstein,a web-master for a nonprofit group and a free speech advocate,said they wanted to keep the exhibit complete.
“I want to make sure people can come in and see it for themselves,” he said.
“There are things in the museum that I could be offended by,but it’s my right to choose that,” he said.
Dax Iacovone said if more pieces are removed from gallery due to censorship they would try to add them to the Museum of Censored Art.
Ralph Kindred,a student at Howard University,attended the opening of the Museum of Censored Art Thursday because he thought it would be interesting.
“Seemed like it would be a big deal to go against the National Portrait Gallery,which is very well known and well respected,” he said.
Kindred,25,said he first heard about the issue on some blogs he follows.
After watching the video,he said he could see why some people find it offensive.
“But I can see its artistic value,” said the Sacramento,Calif.,native.
Bethany Bentley,public affairs specialist at the National Portrait Gallery,confirmed the piece was removed from the exhibit because it was causing controversy.
Bentley said the video can be viewed at other locations,not just at the Museum of Censored Art.
Bentley said museum officials hope visitors to the trailer will also come inside to view the rest of the exhibit.
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts is one of the main sponsors of the exhibit. After the video was removed from the exhibit,the foundation threatened to pull its funding.
After hearing about the Museum of Censored Art,foundation President Joel Wachs said in a statement,“I love the idea. I think it’s brilliant.”
Jeff Field,director of communications for Catholic League,said league officials will not worry about the new museum.
“The reason we had a problem with the Smithsonian displaying it before is because it is federally funded and the crown jewel of the U.S.,” he said.
Field said if federal money can’t be spent to promote religion then it shouldn’t be spent to degrade religion.
The Museum of Modern Art acquired the 13-minute version of the video and began showing it Thursday.
The league released a statement of disapproval,even though MoMA is not a government museum.
“It’s like flipping the middle finger to Christians and Catholics,” Fields said. “We object because it’s always Christians that are offended and that are the target.”