Art Housed

A makeshift museum returns controversial video to Smithsonian -- sort of

It’s going to cost about $6,000 to keep the “Museum of Censored Art” going through Feb. 13, but the two men responsible for bringing back the banned ”Fire in My Belly” video from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery‘s gay and lesbian exhibit Hide/Seek say it’s worth it.

Museum Of Censored Art
Museum Of Censored Art
(Photo by by Todd Franson)

”The point is to keep it visible,” Mike Blasenstein says of the video made by David Wojnarowicz, who died from AIDS-related complications in 1992. Responding to a complaint from the Catholic League, the National Portrait Gallery removed the piece in late November.

Blasenstein, 37, who is gay, along with 36-year-old Michael Dax Iacovone, who is straight, have parked a temporary, trailer museum just outside the Smithsonian in an effort to ensure that censorship can only go so far. In this case, a few feet.

”What these anti-gay groups wanted to do is keep the people coming to this museum from seeing the film,” says Blasenstein. ”We just thought…this was the best way to make sure people coming here would still be able to see the entire Hide/Seek exhibit.”

To Iacovone, a local artist whose work includes photo and video installations, the censorship of Wojnarowicz’s piece hit a nerve. ”I don’t think it was exclusively because I’m an artist,” he says. ”It’s really a First Amendment issue. It’s pretty upsetting.”

Since the “Museum of Censored Art” opened, thousands – including Smithsonian employees – have visited the trailer, and Iacovone says he’s gotten only positive feedback.

The trailer outside the museum comes weeks after the Blasenstein and Iacovone were banned from the Smithsonian, where they held mobile devices displaying the ”Fire in My Belly” video.

”We are already accomplishing a lot bringing the film back to the place that it was censored from,” Blasenstein says. ”Our top wish is still to have the film reinstated in the museum. If we could snap our fingers and have it done, it would be done. At the very least, until then, we can make it available to the public.”

For more about the Museum of Censored Art, visit dontcensor.us.

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