Witnesses: Against Our Vanishing
New York: Artists Space, 1989. Saddle-stapled in wraps. 32 pp. Illustrated with images from the exhibition. 6 x 9 in. Light wear to wraps; else near fine. Item #6687
Catalog for the landmark exhibition organized by Nan Goldin at Artists Space. It was the first exhibition to deal exclusively with AIDS and was the subject of national controversy after Wojnarowicz and Robert Mapplethorpe’s respective artworks--and particularly Wojnarowicz’s catalog essay “Postcards from America: X-Rays from Hell”--were seized upon by right wing political figures to demonize and fearmonger over gay people and people with AIDS.
After Wojnarowicz and Goldin refused Artists Space director Susan Wyatt’s request to censor his essay describing the effect of AIDS on his body and community, the NEA rescinded the $10,000 grant Artists Space had received to produce the exhibition and catalog. The offense was that Wojnarowicz named names of those responsible for the government sanctioned mass death event of the AIDS crisis: he called Cardinal James O’Connor a “fat cannibal from that house of walking swastikas up on fifth avenue” who supressed the circulation of safer sex information, and described his fantasy to “douse [Senator Jesse] Helms with a bucket of gasoline and set his putrid ass on fire.”
This exhibition included essays and statements by Nan Goldin, David Wojnarowicz, Cookie Mueller, Linda Yablonsky, and Susan Wyatt and artworks by Jane Dickson, Peter Hujar, Mark Morrisroe, James Nares, Kiki Smith, Greer Lankton, Darrel Ellis, and Janet Stein, among others.
A scarce and crucial document produced amongst the overlapping histories of art activism, the impact of the AIDS crisis on the culture industry and American society writ large, censorship, and sex panics.