Monday, March 29, 2021

Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker

Chris McKim’s documentary Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker about the legendary artist might be subtitled “Illness Not as Metaphor.” A victim of the AIDS epidemic who died in l992, at the age of 37, Wojnarowicz used his creative talents to become one of the most outspoken leaders of the AIDS movement. For Wojnarowicz AIDS was not a figure of speech. The Trump administration’s denial of Covid was nothing compared to the AIDS plague which was essentially shoved under the carpet due to the fact that it took its toll on an unfavored nation, the gay community. "Fuck you faggot fucker” were the words Wojnarowicz found on a torn piece of paper, an objet trouve which became his mantra. “I’m not gay as in I love you,” he angrily intones in the movie. “I’m queer as in fuck off.” The movie is a battlefield which earns its rage, but to say that the artist who had had an earlier career as a street hustler (one of his heroes was Jean Genet) had a traumatized childhood is a laughable understatement. His alcoholic father beat his children and apparently served him and his two siblings their pet rabbit for dinner. Later he would go on to do battle against other monsters and father surrogates like Jesse Helms who tried to get the NEA to defund an exhibit at the Artists Space, due in part to Wojnarowicz's catalogue copy. Remember back in l999 when Guiliani tried to pull the plug on “Sensation: Young British Artists From the Saachi” which featured Chris Ofili’s dung covered Virgin Mary? It wasn’t difficult for Wojnarowicz to find stand-ins towards whom he could direct his rage. Gracie Mansion, Penny Arcade, Fran Lebowitz and Nan Goldin are some of the 80s and 90s figures who opine in the film. In some ways Wojarowicz bears comparison to Pasolini who also practiced rough trade and was a poet and political activist. The iconic "death mask" of the photographer Peter Hujar who's described in the movie as the Verlaine to Wojnarowicz’s Rimbaud is, in fact, reminiscent of the iconic scene in Mamma Roma where Mantegna’s “Lamentation of Christ” is invoked. "3Teens Kill 4" was btw the name of the band Wojnarowicz's belonged to.

Read "Died Young" by Francis Levy, The Brooklyn Rail

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