The University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art is the first Chicago museum to step up to the plate and plan a continuously-screened exhibition of David Wojnarowicz’ video, “Fire in My Belly,” in January. The video was removed from the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture after religious organizations and right-wing politicians decried the piece as “anti-Christian.” The video will be screened in a continuous loop from January 4 – February 6, 2011. There will also be a faculty panel discussion on the work and the debates surrounding it at a still-to-be-determined date and time in January.  Also – you know the video can easily be accessed on YouTube, right? Further details on the Smart’s screening can be found below.

David Wojnarowicz: A Fire in My Belly
January 4 – February 6, 2011

The University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art will present David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly, joining with institutions across the country to screen the 1987 video work, which was recently removed from the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture following protests by a religious group and conservative politicians.

The silent,13-minute version of Wojnarowicz’s unfinished film will be screened from January 4 to February 6, during the first month of the University of Chicago’s winter quarter. It will be shown on a continuous loop as part of the black box video series presented within the Smart Museum’s contemporary galleries.

A faculty panel discussion about the work and debate surrounding it will take place on a January date TBD. It is organized in collaboration with the University’s art history department and Jenn Sichel, a University of Chicago graduate student who served as a research assistant for Hide/Seek and has been a leading voice in protests against the work’s censorship.

“There is no question that Wojnarowicz’s video is provocative,” said Anthony Hirschel, the Dana Feitler Director of the Smart Museum. “However, as a university art museum, the Smart is committed to providing access to important works and to fostering discussion around even the most challenging art. This presentation of A Fire in My Belly gives our audiences have the opportunity to discuss and judge its merits for themselves.”

After it was pulled from Hide/Seek, institutions and galleries around the country have organized screenings and discussions of A Fire in My Belly. A national calendar of screenings and related events is available at Further background and a compilation of statements from museum officials and others is available on the College Art Association’s website.

Claudine Isé

Claudine Isé has worked in the field of contemporary art as a writer and curator for the past decade, and currently serves as the Editor of the Art21 Blog. Claudine regularly writes for and Chicago magazine, and has also worked as an art critic for the Los Angeles Times. Before moving to Chicago in 2008, she worked at the Wexner Center in Columbus, OH as associate curator of exhibitions, and at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles as assistant curator of contemporary art, where she curated a number of Hammer Projects. She has Ph.D. in Film, Literature and Culture from the University of Southern California.