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Controversial Film Removed From Smithsonian Now Showing In Boston

By Ron Sanders, WBZ-TV
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'A Fire In My Belly' (credit: Estate Of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W Gallery)

‘A Fire In My Belly’ (credit: Estate Of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W Gallery)

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BOSTON ( CBS) — The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston says, by exhibiting David Wojnarowicz’s film “A Fire in My Belly,” the ICA is standing up for the principle of artistic freedom. “It’s a very, very powerful work of art,” said Jill Medvedow, museum director.

“I can understand how it would definitely offend some people, especially the Catholic League in New York…but for me, it wasn’t very offensive,” said Ben Notelovitz, a Brookline High School student who had seen the 20 minute film with a couple of friends.

WBZ-TV’s Ron Sanders reports.

After the Catholic League and several members of Congress criticized the film, made in the 1980’s, as being offensive to Christians, The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery removed the film from one of its exhibitions November 30. “I think they caved in front of political pressure,” said Rick Fantasia of Northampton after viewing the film at the ICA.

“It definitely could be viewed as controversial but, in 2010, art shouldn’t be pulled or taken down for any reason because it’s the artist’s work,” commented Andy Triedman of Brookline.

Other museums and galleries across the country are exhibiting the film which, the ICA says is “an artistic meditation on life, death, faith and suffering,” by the artist who died of AIDS-related complications at the age of 37 in 1992.

“We think it’s important to have this piece, “A Fire in My Belly,” here because the issue of censorship, freedom of expression, is a critical issue to the health of our democracy…democracy is not easy,” said Medvedow.

Realizing some of the images in the film may be disturbing to some people, the museum director said the exhibit is easily avoided and a disclaimer, on a sign just outside the room in which it’s being shown, says the film includes adult content and flashing lights.

The film is being shown at least 18 institutions across the country including Smith College, the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, a number of galleries and colleges on west coast. It is on view at the ICA until Christmas Eve.

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