Yesterday afternoon, Transformer Gallery began showing a controversial video by late artist David Wajnarowicz, which made waves this week after it was removed from the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.” The video will be shown on a continuous 24-hour loop in Transformer’s front window.
The four-minute video depicts ants crawling over an image of Jesus Christ, meant to symbolize the suffering of an AIDS victim. The decision to remove the piece from “Hide/Seek” came on the heels of an uproar fueled by an article on CNSNews.com, which decried the use of federal funding to support an exhibit containing LGBT, sexual and religious themes.
In an e-mail message, Victoria Reis, Executive and Artistic Director of Transformer, said that the gallery’s decision was “in direct response” to the National Portrait Gallery’s removal of the video. “I find [that] the bullying from Congress and the response by the NPG to pull this work is censorship,” she wrote, referencing threats made by several Republican lawmakers to reconsider the National Portrait Gallery’s funding. She continued:
“As a non-profit visual arts organization committed to connecting and promoting artists, encouraging arts dialogue around experimental work, and building audiences for new artistic voices, it was a fulfillment of our mission to respond.
Additionally, as today is World AIDS Day and Day With(out)Art, I and Transformer as an organization felt it was important to promote this important work to the community.”
Transformer is organizing a silent walk today at 5:30 p.m. from its location at 1404 P St., NW to the National Portrait Gallery. The walk will protest the National Portrait Gallery’s decision to remove the video, as well as congressional threats “to essentially freeze artistic expression.”