Protest at The Smithsonian, Marching with Barbara Hammer

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Protest at The Smithsonian, Marching with Barbara Hammer

This past Sunday 500 protesters, including queers from the ActUp days, artist who care about censorship, and various art world luminaries, marched from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt Design Museum.

The protest was a response to the censorship by the Smithsonian  when it pulled "Fire in My Belly" out of the Hide/Seek exhibition in D.C. after coming under pressure from GOP congressmen. Read the background on David Wojnarowicz's work by Patricia.

Also worth a read, on Wonjnarowicz's life and background, is Holland Cotter's piece in the New York Times.

The protest was organized by ART+ and spurred on by art critics like Jerry Saltz, who penned this open letter to the 111th Congress:

Dear Messrs. Kantor and Boehner:

Right now, during the season when many children are passing through the Metropolitan Museum of Art on their way to see the Christmas tree, there are on view numerous Greek vases that depict men with erections, many of them cavorting with one another; paintings of children standing on their mothers’ laps and urinating; multiple depictions of mothers breast-feeding infants; scores of Oceanic wooden sculptures that depict male figures with enormous multiple penises; Rene Magritte’s painting showing only pudenda covered in a damp mat of dark pubic hair; Francis Boucher’s naked woman alone in bed rubbing her vulva on the bedsheets... I think that any public funding to the Met should be curtailed until all of these items have been looked into and removed.

According to Julia Bolcer at the Advocate, "The protest is the largest in years in the city to coalesce around an art exhibition, aimed to send a message from the heart of the art world."

I caught up with pioneering lesbian filmmaker Barbara Hammer, and here's what she had to say.

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Comments [4]

T Hammidi's picture

Good to see we need it

So glad you got ahold of Barbara Hammer and put her on the horn.  Every gallery/museum/site-specific art goer should just get this quote (like on a sticker) at the door, maybe it'd just give them an emotional avenue to take hold when they (I, you, us, everyone) sees something we just don't quite get ...  

"Looking at something you don't understand is exciting" - Barbara Hammer

Thanks for posting this, Grace and for the earlier very informative article Patricia.   I did a educational piece in a show out here in the desert during the time of this Wojnarowicz censorship.  Got a hold of the YouTube "Fire in My Belly" video and showed it to a diverse desert crowd of regular people. Projected it across the sand and back door - the sound and visual were viewable.  Very powerful to show and many came up after with thanks.  Some people know what's good for them; some people want to learn and grow ... 


mickey06's picture


This is precisely why grad school (sometimes) sucks. Instead of being able to do this I was poring over an essay constructing an archival photo methodology. Hmmmmph!!! I honestly didnt even know this was happening.  In my own backyard too! sigh....

patricia's picture

this is great!

500 people!

Tex's picture

"...exciting to look at something you don't understand."

That's it! That's the feeling exactly!

Thanks for representing in the march, Grace, and sharing the experience with us.

Twitter Time @kdhales