MoMA acquires media artworks, including David Wojnarowicz's video art A Fire In My Belly
The Museum of Modern Art has acquired a complete version of A Fire in My Belly (1986–87) by David Wojnarowicz—both its original 13-minute version and a 7-minute excerpt made by the artist.
MoMA is the first institution to acquire the video, and it is now on view in the Museum’s exhibition Contemporary Art from the Collection, a focused examination of artistic practice since the late 1960s that considers how current events from the last 40 years have shaped artists’ work.
Also joining the collection are media works by Harun Farocki, Andrea Fraser, Dan Graham, Dorit Margreiter, and a collective of young artists who critically engage social and political issues in their work.
Wojnarowicz (American, 1954–1992), one of the most influential artists to have emerged from New York in the 1980s, made A Fire in My Belly after being diagnosed with HIV. A collage of images filmed primarily during the artist’s travels to Mexico, it combines footage from a number of sources that refer—often in graphic detail—to death, social inequality, faith, and desire. In MoMA’s Contemporary Galleries, it joins a grouping of art works made during the AIDS crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s. A Fire in My Belly is the 13th work by the artist to join MoMA’s collection over the last two decades.
Among the other new acquisitions are large-scale installations by artists dealing directly with the Iraq War and its effects. Serious Games (2009–10), comprising four videos by Harun Farocki (German, b. 1944), examines the use of videogame technology in military training and therapy for veterans. 9 Scripts from a Nation at War (2007), a 10-channel video installation by artist-collaborators Andrea Geyer (German, b. 1971), Sharon Hayes (American, b. 1970), Ashley Hunt (American, b. 1970), Katya Sander (Danish, b. 1970), and David Thorne (American, b. 1960), features performances that question the ways in which war constructs specific positions for individuals to fulfill or resist.
Andrea Fraser’s (American, b. 1965) two-channel video installation Soldadera (Scenes from Un Banquete en Tetleapayac, a film by Olivier Debroise) (1998/2001) examines the utopian and revolutionary impulses of 20th-century art and its failures, resonating with the history of modern art and of MoMA itself. The installation enters MoMA’s collection along with nine videos by Fraser, including The Public Life of Art: The Museum (in collaboration with Louise Lawler, 1988), which features the artist giving tours of The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA, touching on topics ranging from corporate sponsorship to economic social policy.
The multimedia installation zentrum (2004) by Dorit Margreiter (Austrian, b. 1967) reanimates one of many broken neon signs in Leipzig in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), thereby situating the aesthetics of socialist modernism within the 21st century.
Sabine Breitwieser, MoMA’s Chief Curator of Media and Performance Art, has also initiated a collaboration with Dan Graham (American, b. 1942) to produce a comprehensive reconstruction of his landmark slide projection Homes for America (1965–67/2010), which draws on color snapshots the artist took, beginning in 1965, in suburban New Jersey and Staten Island using an Instamatic fixed-focus camera. This restoration marks an important step in preserving one of the most important artworks of the contemporary period, and enters MoMA’s collection with five important early film performances the artist made between 1969 and 1973.
Many of these artists cross over and examine the relationships among disciplines, performing in front of the camera or revisiting the foundations of video, including avant-garde film, said Ms. Breitwieser. These works share a certain critical stance on questions of reality and the mediated image, on experience and performance, as well as on narrative and fiction versus the documentary, thus placing art in the very center of society.
David Wojnarowicz, A Fire In My Belly (Film In Progress) and A Fire In My Belly Excerpt, 1986-87
Super 8mm films transferred to video (black and white and color, silent), 13:06 min. and 7:00 min. The Museum of Modern Art. Committee on Media and Performance Art Funds. Courtesy of The Estate of David Wojnarowicz and P.P.O.W Gallery, New York and The Fales Library and Special Collections/ New York University.