A David Wojnarowicz Documentary Honors the Gritty, Glorious Chaos of His Life

Eileen G’Sell, senior lecturer in College Writing in Arts & Sciences

 

The most powerful aspect of the Whitney Museum’s 2018 retrospective “David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night” was not hanging on a wall, but rather was vibrating through the air. In an empty room the artist’s voice consumed all who entered, its crushed granite timbre almost tactile to the ear. “I wake up every morning in this killing machine called America, and I’m carrying this rage inside like a blood-filled egg,” he declared, while the sun pierced the glass one gallery over, igniting the waters of Chelsea Piers.

For many, the show was a triumph of inclusion; some 26 years after his death from an AIDS-related illness, the artist, queer activist, and punk-rock polymath was relocated from the margins of contemporary American art history to the center. But for others, the entire affair proved a lesson on the limits of institutional curation of artists who overtly reject institutional values — and few did as brazenly as Wojnarowicz.

Read the full piece at Hyperallergic.

Comments and respectful dialogue are encouraged, but content will be moderated. Please, no personal attacks, obscenity or profanity, selling of commercial products, or endorsements of political candidates or positions. We reserve the right to remove any inappropriate comments. We also cannot address individual medical concerns or provide medical advice in this forum.