What AA Bronson Can Gain From A Smithsonian Shit-In

by Paddy Johnson on December 31, 2010 · 10 comments Opinion

AA Bronson, "Felix", June 5, 1994, 1994/99, lacquer on vinyl, 84 x 168 inches

A few friends and I have been discussing The Smithsonian’s censorship of David Wojnarowicz’s video “A Fire in My Belly” after protests from the right, and AA Bronson’s subsequent request that his work, Felix, be removed from the show “Hide/Seek”. Bronson has been working with a lawyer to get his work back, but has he explored all the options? An artist from Toronto offered a few additional suggestions I’m publishing below complete with a reader poll. Let us know what method of protest you prefer and we’ll pass the message along!

1. Turn the piece around so Felix faces the wall. The artist dictates how the work is hung — he should instruct the institution change its orientation. The act would be a powerful comment on the homophobic threats that prompted the Smithsonian’s censorship from within the walls of the museum itself.

2. Walk into the institution and take the work off the wall. Most museums aren’t so heavily guarded that this couldn’t be achieved with a little planning. I expect Bronson might be fined for forcibly removing his work, but the act itself is aggressive enough to be meaningful.

3. Threaten to sue for emotional damages. AA Bronson has written a letter every day to The Smithsonian’s Wayne Clough requesting the removal of his work — surely that signals emotion duress of some sort. Hoping to cut its losses the museum would give Bronson his work back.

4. Stage a Shit-in: Marches and petitions don’t seem to phase anyone any more, but I bet shitting on site does! Nobody wants to clean up human feces. We had some debate over whether to name the protest a Poo-in or a Shit-in. The latter won.

[poll id=”3″]


AA Bronson December 31, 2010 at 10:11 pm

I could also use the technique perfected by Michael Snow many years ago: handcuff myself to the front door of the National Portrait Gallery.

Adam December 31, 2010 at 10:18 pm

None of these options are productive. Why spend time attacking a single museum that, despite it’s flaws, has largely worked to advance LGBT scholarship and openness in institutions…. Museums across the country have been self-censoring LGBT scholarship for years and you’ve never shat on their floors.

Matt January 1, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Adam – a passive approach in this situation would be the non-productive option. True, this show was a quote-on-quote “bold” show for the institution, but the bold move was made when the video was removed after calls from the right. A symbolic act (such as Bronson continually writing letters, demanding his piece back, or having his piece face the wall) can make strong waves. It’s time to move past accepting self-censorship of LGBT scholarship; change can only be made when voices are raised.

Mark Verabioff December 31, 2010 at 10:47 pm

#1 – waspy
#2 – been there, done that
#3 – SHIT!

AA Bronson January 1, 2011 at 2:21 pm

@Adam The point is not to attack the institution: the point is to reinstate the video in it’s original form. Unfortunately we can’t point out self-censorship as easily as censorship. If you have an idea as to how to do that, please let us all know.

Anonymous January 1, 2011 at 3:43 pm

I like that litigation is currently dead last as a response. Out of the 2 obviously ridiculous responses, it’s certainly the more absurd one.

Marshall January 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm

I don’t see anything ridiculous about a “Shit In”.

Tony January 2, 2011 at 10:19 pm

the shit-in, while funny, is terribly cruel to the people who would have to clean it up. How about something like wearing a jacket with an ipad built into the back…put the DW video on repeat and stand and face the wall? what if a hundred people did it? i dunno….maybe it’s a dumb idea. I fully support Bronson here…

Brendan January 5, 2011 at 7:32 am

This situation is unfortunate. AA Bronson is in a terrible bind. The Smithsonian dropped the ball. Bill Donohue and The Catholic League are hate-mongers. House Republicans self-serving beauracrats.

The National Gallery of Canada owns “Felix, June 5, 1994″. If an artist releases (sells, donates, gifts) his artwork to another person or institution, he no longer has a say to how it is to be displayed. That being said. I applaud AA Bronson for taking a stand, and bringing light to this torrid affair. I thought Jerry Saltz letter to congress in NYM was an appropriate means of political action. I also think this AFC and Hyperallergics continued coverage of the debacle provides a valuable forum of protest. One good thing to come out of this is that many institutions (New Museum, Queer Cultural Center, Mattress Factory, and ICA Boston) have decided to show Wojnarowicz’s video in protest.

Jenny January 11, 2011 at 4:38 pm

destroy the work and let Felix Partz rest in peace.
it was inappropriate to produce without Felix’s authorization in the first place, and now a subsequent milking of it for bonus attention is a desperado ego motivated motion.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: