Media contact: Mike Blasenstein, firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2010—Two Washington, D.C. residents yesterday were detained by police and permanently banned from all Smithsonian properties after peacefully showing the so-called “Ant Crucifix” video inside the National Portrait Gallery. (Watch the video)
Dec. 6, 2010: UPDATE: Only One of Us Is Banned for Life (the Other Is Banned for a Year)
D.C. resident Mike Blasenstein displayed the work, “A Fire in My Belly” by gay artist David Wojnarowicz on an iPad at the entrance to the Gallery’s “Hide/Seek” exhibition. The video about living with AIDS in the 1980s was removed November 30 by Smithsonian officials after pressure from an anti-gay group and members of Congress. Friend and local artist Michael Dax Iacovone documented the protest.
“I was dumbstruck that this kind of thing could happen in 2010,” said Blasenstein. “I’d never heard of David Wojnarowicz before, but the more I learned about him, the more I realized that the same forces trying to suppress his work and cut his funding when he was alive were still trying to silence him today.
“Suddenly I realized that ‘Silence = Death’ wasn’t a retro relic, but something that made it possible for me as a gay man to enjoy whatever acceptance and protections I have today. I wanted to make sure that this man who died 18 years ago wasn’t swept from view again—especially from an exhibition professing to honor the marginalized,” Blasenstein added.
Less than 10 minutes into their protest, Blasenstein and Iacovone were detained by Smithsonian security. Washington, D.C. police then arrived, and permanently barred both men from setting foot on any Smithsonian-owned property on penalty of immediate arrest. They were then escorted from the premises.
Despite this setback, further actions are being planned. Updates will be posted at http://silencestillequalsdeath.blogspot.com