The Brooklyn Museum is under fire today from the Daily News, which is horribly offended by the institution's plans to screen an avant-garde film with a 10-second shot of ants crawling over a crucifix. The tabloid previously flipped its lid over the Museum's graffiti exhibit, so this shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but this is a debate that's staler than communion wafers.
The work in question is "A Fire In My Belly," a four-minute unfinished film by David Wojnarowicz, who died of complications from AIDS in 1992. The grainy Super-8 film features a variety of potentially disturbing images, including the artist himself with his lips sewn together, a bowl full of blood, and male masturbation. It's being shown as part of the Museum's upcoming HIDE/SEEK: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture exhibit, which is focused on gender and sexuality in modern portraiture. Last year, the film was the subject of much controversy when it was pulled from the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. amidst complaints from the Catholic League, who described it as "hate speech."
A representative from the Museum told us that they are not scheduling interviews until after the press has seen the exhibit when it opens on November 18, but did confirm that they will be showing the film, ants-crucifix scene included. Brooklyn Museum Director Arnold Lehman told Newsday that the museum wanted to present the exhibition "clearly because it's such an important aspect of American art in the 20th century...This is New York City. This is a city that has thrived on the incredible contributions from the gay and lesbian community." He added that the only protests the museum received were when it first announced plans for the exhibition.
This is the same museum that stood up to Rudy Guiliani in 1999 over a painting of the Virgin Mary covered in elephant dung, so we're fairly confident that a quick video clip will be just a blip on the scandal radar.
Here's a four-minute clip of "Fire:"