Piss Christ, Part II: Antz

Penny Starr at Newsbusters:

The federally funded National Portrait Gallery, one of the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, is currently showing an exhibition that features images of an ant-covered Jesus, male genitals, naked brothers kissing, men in chains, Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, and a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show’s catalog as “homoerotic.”

The exhibit, “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” opened on Oct. 30 and will run throughout the Christmas Season, closing on Feb. 13.

“This is an exhibition that displays masterpieces of American portraiture and we wanted to illustrate how questions of biography and identity went into the making of images that are canonical,” David C. Ward, a National Portrait Gallery (NGP) historian who is also co-curator of the exhibit, told CNSNews.com.

crucifix 3  npg

A plaque fixed to the wall at the entrance to the exhibit says that the National Portrait Gallery is “committed to showing how a major theme in American history has been the struggle for justice so that people and groups can claim their full inheritance in America’s promise of equality, inclusion, and social dignity. As America’s museum of national biography, the NPG is also vitally interested in the art of portrayal and how portraiture reflects our ideas about ourselves and others.

crucifix 4

An ant-covered Jesus/crucifix in “A Fire in My Belly” video, part of the ‘Hide/Seek’ exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

Victor Davis Hanson at Pajamas Media:

Its title is coyly encrypted in postmodern bipolarity: “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.” And the exhibition apparently is full of Mapplethorpe-inspired gay-related imagery and offers us an image of Jesus being swarmed over by ants. Clever, brave, bold, shocking. Or in the words of the overseers of the federally-subsidized National Portrait Gallery, such artistic courage proves how the gallery is now “committed to showing how a major theme in American history has been the struggle for justice so that people and groups can claim their full inheritance in America’s promise of equality, inclusion, and social dignity.”

But once more all that verbiage turns out to be just Sixties-ish lingo for about the same old, same old:

  1. Abject cowardice—since if a theme were really religious intolerance, why not portray Mohammed in lieu of Christ, inasmuch as contemporary Islam is far more intolerant of gays and liberated women than the so-called Christian West. Such a video might better exhibit just how “committed” these federal artistic bureaucrats were to “equality, inclusion, and social justice.”
  2. Mediocrity—dressing up talentless soft-core pornographic expression with federal catch-phrases and subsidies ensures a venue for junk art that most otherwise would neither pay to see nor ever exhibit.
  3. Politics—all this is supposedly sort of revolutionary, full of neat phrases like “committed”, “struggle for justice”, “full inheritance”, “equality”, “inclusion”, and “social dignity”, and all the empty vocabulary that mostly upscale white nerds like a Bill Ayers employ when they want to tweak and embarrass the gullible liberals who support and pay for their nonsense.

The Jawa Report:

If these “artists” really wanted to be daring and controversial, they’d create an ant-covered Quran exhibit. But the cowards take the path of least resistance and then applaud their own courage in the face of minuscule risk.

Don Suber

Ann Althouse:

“If they’ve got money to squander like this – of a crucifix being eaten by ants, of Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts, men in chains, naked brothers kissing…”

“… then I think we should look at their budget,” said Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, scaring the Smithsonian Institution into taking down the ants-on-Jesus video. Cowed, the Institution nevertheless defended the artist, whose “intention was to depict the suffering of an AIDS victim.” The museum assures us it had no “intention to offend.”

John Nolte at Big Hollywood:

Another turn in this story, again via CNS News, and in my opinion a hollow threat from John Boehner and Eric Cantor:

House Speaker-to-be John Boehner (R-Ohio) is telling the Smithsonian Institution to pull an exhibit that features images of an ant-covered Jesus or else face tough scrutiny when the new Republican majority takes control of the House in January. House Majority Leader-to-be Eric Cantor (R.-Va.), meanwhile, is calling on the Smithsonian to pull the exhibit and warning the federally funded institution that it will face serious questions when Congress considers the next budget.

CNSNews.com had asked both congressional leaders if the exhibit should continue or be cancelled and both indicated it should be cancelled. …

“Smithsonian officials should either acknowledge the mistake and correct it, or be prepared to face tough scrutiny beginning in January when the new majority in the House moves to end the job-killing spending spree in Washington,” Smith said.

When asked to clarify what exactly Boehner meant by calling on the Smithsonian to “correct” their mistake with the exhibit, Smith said Boehner wanted the exhibit “cancelled.”

Cantor, meanwhile, said the exhibit should be “pulled.”

I’m sure some on the Left will scream censorship, but this is what happens when an institution takes money from the government, or anyone else. If the Smithsonian depended on big private donors to fund this junk, those big private donors would likely demand a say in what their money’s used for. Same with Congress, and not just in the arts. Whether you’re on welfare or a big corporation receiving subsidies, all taxpayer money comes with certain conditions.

The problem is that there’s no teeth behind this threat. The time to end the grossly immoral practice of funding the arts (and PBS) in every shape, manner and form was sometime between 2002 and 2006 when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the White House. Pardon my cynicism, but if the Republicans didn’t have the sand to do it then, they sure don’t now with even less power; so you can bet the Smithsonian isn’t exactly shaking in their boots.

Jim Newell at Gawker:

Update:

That didn’t take too long. The ant-covered Jesus is now gone. From TBD.com:

The National Portrait Gallery has removed a work of art from a GLBT-themed exhibition after it attracted conservative and religious ire for its images of homosexuality and Christianity. Director Martin Sullivan announced the removal of A Fire in My Belly by artist David Wojnarowicz after conservative news service CNS wrote yesterday that the “Christmas-season exhibit,” which opened in October, used taxpayer money to indirectly fund an exhibition that includes imagery of genitalia, homoerotic situations, and Christ covered in ants.

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