Monday, October 26, 2009

The Passion of David Wojnarowicz

Put the kids to bed. Here's another post on David Wojnarowicz.

Ten years ago, I did a series of paintings about Wojnarowicz based on his writings. It turned out to be a practice run for The Passion of Christ begun 2 years later. I organized them using the Hebrew Alphabet like the reading from Lamentations in the Tenebrae service for Holy Week. If you look carefully, you can find each Hebrew letter from the title in each painting. I'm not sure how Wojnarowicz would react to being liturgized. I don't care much for the idea myself these days. He might actually have liked being turned into a kind of martyr figure, however.
If I was to do something again about Wojnarowicz, I would do it very differently. I'd make him much less of a martyr, and a little more of a radical hero.

This series was a big success for me on the exhibition circuit. These paintings brought me my first press notice and an enthusiastic review (in a small art rag that doesn't exist anymore).
This series got me a solo show with the Organization of Independent Artists in their Gallery 402 downtown in Tribeca. I'm told that was quite a coup, that they rarely give solo shows. Not many people showed up for the opening. September 11th happened a month before. Ground Zero was just blocks away, the fires were still burning, and there were still lots of access restrictions in the neighborhood.
I sold the whole series to a single collector for not much money at all (gave away might be more accurate).

I recently made scans from my old slides of the whole series, and here they are with the texts from Wojnarowicz's writings that all but 2 of them illustrate.



For me, it gives me strength to make things, it gives me strength to offer proof of my existence in this form. I think anybody who is impoverished in any way, whether psychically or physically, tends to want to build rather than destroy.


When I put my hands on your body, on your flesh, I feel the history of that body, not just the beginning of its forming in that distant lake, but all the way beyond its ending.


What is this little guy's job in the world? If this little guy dies, does the world know? Does the world feel this? Does something get displaced? If this little guy dies, does the world get a little lighter?


Entered the underground of man/child sexual connections...Dropped out of school and lived on the street full time. Was almost murdered twice more in ratty hotels and side streets of Times Square. Was drugged once and raped and beat up while unconscious.


And I'm carrying this rage like a blood-filled egg and there's a thin line between the inside and the outside a thin line between thought and action and that line is simply made up of blood and muscle and bone and each T-cell disappears from my body it's replaced by ten pounds of pressure ten pounds of rage and I focus that rage into nonviolent resistance but that focus is starting to slip my hands are beginning to move independently and the egg is starting to crack...There's certain politicians that better get more complex security alarms and there's religious and health care officials that had better get bigger fucking dogs and higher fucking fences and queerbashers better start doing their work from inside...tanks because the thin line between the inside and the outside is beginning to erode and at the moment I'm a three hundred foot tall eleven hundred thousand pound man inside this this six foot frame and all I can feel is the pressure all I can feel is the pressure and the need for release.


If I die it is because a handful of people in power, in organized religions and political institutions, believe that I am expendable. And with that knowledge I lie down among the folds of my sheets and dream of the day when I cross an interior line. That line is made of a quota of strength and a limit of pain. I know those institutions are simply made of stones and those people are simply made of blood and muscle and bone, and I know how easily they can go, how easily I can take them with me. My thoughts consist of wondering if the earth will spin a little faster when my thoughts become action.



JCF said...

Really impressive, Doug.

Göran Koch-Swahne said...

What JCF said!

nt.flanagan said...

Very interesting. Very moving at a personal level for me as well.