Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wayne Clough is a jerk.


This blog has always been one of those annoying ones that doesn't do "negative" (note the name, best of). So I think this post will probably be the first time I've called anyone out for being a jerk (except all you Prop 8 supporters - you're still jerks!). But after attending Gage's discussion on the Wojnarowicz censorship last night and spending most of the night tossing and turning due to dreams of being attacked, I woke up angry.

Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough is a jerk! So are you John Boehner, Eric Cantor and William Donahue. These people, along with Penny Starr (the 'reporter', not the burlesque dancer--who I'm sure is awesome!) are responsible for the dead chicken [too colloquial?] that will be hanging around the Smithsonian's neck for a long time to come. What has surprised me most in these discussions about the censorship is how once again, the Right Wing has completely deflected our attention to a phony issue. Much like those 7 in 10 (!!!) Americans who believe that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the 9/11 attack, Republican spin doctors have Americans thinking that this isn't censorship, but instead a necessary response to an attack on Christianity. Make no mistake - this manufactured controversy has NOTHING to do with Christianity - the core issue here is homophobia. Their ilk hate gay people but are also smart enough to realize that they're out of step with the majority of Americans on this issue, so how do they go about removing Hide/Seek? By focusing on the only thing they know they could get any traction with - more cries of religious persecution. This was the first important gay exhibition to ever to be shown in a major American museum and they hated that. And like the Mapplethorpe controversy in 1989, they will do everything in their power to make sure people are afraid to ever try anything like it again.

The Museum of Censored Art (a portable display set up near the Smithsonian to display the censored video) has published a fantastic list of questions to ask Clough today at a Town Hall meeting in LA. Clough has been radio silent for the past 2 months, I'm sure in hopes that things will have died down a bit but I think his silence has had just the opposite effect. On Tuesday, speaking to Lee Rosenbaum, Clough stated emphatically, "I don't regret the decision [to remove the video]. I think it was the right decision for the exhibit, as well as for the long-term strength of this institution." I don't think he'll feel the same once the dust settles.

Here are some of MoCA (Museum of Censored Art) questions that I really hope get addressed today.
Why did you make Martin Sullivan take the blame for your decision?

Do you realize that you have sent a message to all special interest groups that they can force the Smithsonian to censor if they complain to the right people?

Were there any other Smithsonian staff who thought censoring the video was a good idea, or did you go against the advice of all of your curators?

In an unsigned statement on Dec. 6, the Smithsonian said the Wojnarowicz video was removed because it “distracted from the overall exhibition.” If your continued presence as Secretary becomes similarly “distracting,” will you follow your own example and remove yourself from the Smithsonian?
It's not much but it's all I got - there is a personal silver lining in all of this because I can finally both spell and pronounce David Wojnarowicz' name.

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