Transformer on P St. Showing “Fire In My Belly” Video

by Borderstan.com December 1, 2010 at 11:47 pm 2,035 7 Comments

"Fire in My Belly" National Portrait Gallery Transformer

“Fire In My Belly” is playing continuously in the front window space of  Transformer, 1404 P St. NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

The 1987 video, Fire in my Belly, is now playing continuously in the front window space at Transformer, 1404 P St. NW. The video was removed from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in downtown DC after complaints about depictions of Jesus. The video will run continuously in Transformer’s front window space until reinstated at the National Portrait Gallery, according to Transformer.

The video is also available on YouTube — you must sign in to YouTube and affirm that you are at least 18 years of age; length is just over 4 minutes.

Criticism of the video is centered around how images of Jesus are depicted. Blake Gopnik at The Washington Post wrote an article criticizing the removal of the video from the National Portrait Gallery. This evening Gopnik posted another article discussing the video. As noted in The Washington Post, “After the Catholic League complained about a video by David Wojnarowicz containing ants crawling on a cross — part of the sexuality-themed exhibit “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” — the National Portrait Gallery removed the piece.”

On its website, Transformer states, “Under pressure from the Catholic League, The Smithsonian Institution has removed this work from the National Portrait Gallery’s current Hide/Seek exhibition. Starting TODAY, DEC. 1, Transformer began showing this video work in our 1404 P Street, NW Washington, DC storefront project space, and we will continue to run the video 24 HOURS A DAY until it is reinstated.”

On Thursday, Transformer is organizing a protest march at 6pm from Transformer to the National Portrait Gallery; participants are asked to meet at Transformer at 5:30 pm. The exhibition of “Hide/Seek” and Fire In My Belly at the National Portrait Gallery was paid for with private funds, not U.S. Government monies.

eaction to National Portrait Gallery’s ants-and-crucifix controversy

After the Catholic League complained about a video by David Wojnarowicz containing ants crawling on a cross — part of the sexuality-themed exhibit “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” — the National Portrait Gallery removed the piece. Now Logan Circle gallery Transformer is playing the video in their display window. Transformer art director Victoria Reis speaks about their reasons for quickly putting the video back up for display, and the mistake the Smithsonian museum made in bowing down to outside pressures.

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  • Lance

    This video is really pretty offensive to anyone who is Catholic, and I’d suspect to Christians in general. Can you imagine symbols of other religions being similarly desecrated? Just recently there was furor when some reverend down south wanted to burn the Koran. There was rightfully plenty of negative reaction to that. Why aren’t we seeing similar negative reaction to this?

    • Meredith

      Lance, the reason there was an outcry against the Koran burning is that was motivated by hatred of a religion and its practitioners. The images of Jesus and the crucifix in this video was used in a work of art to make a statement about HIV/AIDS. I’m not an art critic, so I’m not entirely sure what that statement is, but I believe it has something to do with suffering–and didn’t Jesus suffer?

      Now, it’s perfectly legitimate for a Christian to feel offended that a symbol of his or her religion was used in a manner that he or she may not agree with, but personal feelings of offense don’t give license for censorship.

    • Robert Mapplesandorangesthorp

      You might recall the minister’s threatened Koran burning being the subject of pleas from many US officials, including the Secretary of Defense. I don’t think Bob Gates moonlights as a critic of performance art, or has a hobby of protecting religious symbols, but was instead interested in avoiding an extra heaping of riots and deaths in a theater of action (and across a bunch of allied regional states as well).

      The analogy is false in so many other ways. The pastor was claiming an entire faith as illegitimate; his artist wasn’t, he was just using a symbol in a jarring expressive manner. When you consider the Catholic Church’s, ahem, “unhelpfulness” regarding AIDS in its evil inceptive years, I have no problem as a Christian myself with this jarring usage, and do not consider it desecration of the memory of Christ. If you want that, go ponder the records of too many retired Bishops and Cardinals (oh don’t forget to ask any of them if they wore condoms in their heyday).

      And we aren’t seeing negative reaction to this? Boehner and Cantor played the full “offensive faggy art” card against this thing, and Matt Drudge went apeshit all over it. And a national cultural institution flinched quicker than a Chinese factory can pump out another shipment of your precious, precious plastic Jebuses.

    • Jacob Thomas

      Because Christians are better than muslims. They are able to stand righteous amidst a see of disbelief, ridicule and aggression. They do not esteem the symbols (what is writing after all but symbols) of their faith to be of greater value to a human life, even a non christian human life.

      Because unlike other faiths, Christians know that we ALL are unworthy and fall short of the glory of God. It is only through the Grace of God that the Holy Spirit moves people people to faith and understanding.

      • Robert Mapplesandorangesthorpe

        “unlike other faiths, Christians know that we ALL are unworthy and fall short of the glory of God.”

        Somebody needs to make a new year’s resolution of expanding their theological studies beyond watching Joel Osteen. The above is explicitly stated by many non-Christian faiths worldwide actually. But thanks anyway for the sermon, way ahead of Sunday morning. I was just thinking that a discussion over government heavy-handedness towards art needed a dose of mini-sermon myopia and doctrinal one-upsmanship.

  • Sam

    I watched the video. I have seen a hundred things that are much more offensive than “Fire In My Belly.” It’s pretty obvious that the National Portrait Gallery simply freaked out — even though this entire exhibition was funded with private money, not tax dollars.

    We live in a pluralistic society. Many things offend many people, including art that criticizes religion. I am a Buddhist and there are things I would offensive. But, whether I am offended is not the point. It’s all part of democracy and free expression. We all have to live with things we don’t like.

    @Lance: I think the reason many people were upset by the threatened burning of the Koran is that there would have likely been violence around the world and people might have died as a consequence. No one threatened that if the video was not removed from the Gallery. Hopefully, we are better than that.

  • Metalmaiden

    An artist or anyone expressing themselves through any medium shouldn’t be thinking about who they might offend. Creativity and expression should not be done with total freedom to express your thoughts, ideas and feelings. The offence is in the eye of the beholder. Either look or don’t. Suppression is more to be feared than expression.


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