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Protesters Rally At Met Over Banned Artwork

I dunno, I thought that the video would be a little more horrifying for all the fuss. Several hundred people gathered Sunday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to protest the recent decision by the Smithsonian Institution to remove a

I dunno, I thought that the video would be a little more horrifying for all the fuss.

Several hundred people gathered Sunday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art to protest the recent decision by the Smithsonian Institution to remove a contentious video from a current exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

The video, "A Fire in My Belly," which was created by the late New York artist David Wojnarowicz and had been part of the exhibition "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," includes a scene of ants crawling over a crucifix. The film was removed following criticism from, among others, the Catholic League and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio).[..]

The protesters marched from the Museum to Cooper-Hewitt, the city's primary Smithsonian institution, holding signs reading "Silence=Death" and "Smithsonian, Stop the Censorship."

The WSJ conveniently left out the name, but the outcry originated none other than Bill Donohue, the perpetually outraged head of the Catholic League, seeking headlines once again.

A Smithsonian exhibit that includes a video of ants crawling on a crucified Christ has triggered an unholy backlash -- with the head of the Catholic League fuming that the artwork is "hate speech."

"A Fire in My Belly," by the late artist David Wojnarowicz, is included in "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," a show at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery to run through Feb. 13.

Catholic League President Bill Donohue said the four-minute video "was designed to insult and inflict injury and assault the sensibilities of Christians," and he blasted the museum's federal funding.

"If the government can't fund the promotion of religion, it shouldn't be in the business of funding an animus to religion," he said.

Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas declined to comment "on people's opinions on art," but noted that the museum, although 55 percent funded by Congress, raises its own money for exhibits.

That's right, the exhibit was privately--not government--funded. But you get a little wailing by Bill Donohue, egged on by John Boehner and the Smithsonian folded like a house of cards.

But there are many whose delicate sensibilities aren't so easily affected. In solidarity with the artist and against the censorship, protests have occurred in DC, NYC and Chicago and now, museums are agreeing to exhibit "A Fire In My Belly", including the University of Chicago's Smart Museum.

While marches of protest have been staged in Washington, D.C., and New York City, dozens of privately funded institutions and collectives across the country have obtained permission from The Estate of David Wojnarowicz (via New York City-based P.P.O.W., which has represented Wojnarowicz's work since 1988) to screen "A Fire in My Belly" on their own terms. Among them are a trio of Chicago venues including the Smart Museum, which announced this week the video airing as well as a faculty panel discussion organized in part by graduate student Jenn Sichel, who served as a research assistant for "Hide/Seek."

"On the one hand, it's disheartening to see a work being used so blatantly out of context in this way to stir up controversy," Smith said. "But on the other hand, it's really quite beautiful and heartening to see how quickly awareness of the situation has spread, and to see how many institutions have really stepped up to provide people in their communities the opportunity to see the work, to experience it as art rather than just as this tool."

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