The Final Secret of David Wojnarowicz
NYU’s Bobst Library is an empty cavern where fluorescent lights hang down like stalactites and lone students wing through the stacks like bats. My ears are straining to catch some sign of life when I hear the squawk of a recalcitrant brake as the librarian wheels a metal book cart my way. If my soul could salivate, I’d go wet inside. Saints’ relics, the shirt off Justin Bieber’s back, lost tapes showing what really happened that day in Dallas—I couldn’t give two shits about those curios. I’m about to hold David Wojnarowicz’s final secret: the Magic Box.
Through his art, Wojnarowicz gave voice to the unspeakable, be it the banal brutality of the suburbs, the roaring horror of AIDS, or the beauty of two faggots fucking on an abandoned pier in downtown Manhattan—all subjects he came by honestly. His father was violently abusive, alcoholic, and eventually killed himself; his mother was often absent and rarely parental. By the time he was a teenager, Wojnarowicz was hustling among the junkies and pimps in pre-Disney Times Square. Yet like an alchemist, he somehow distilled shit into gold, turning a painful childhood into powerful, layered artwork that was at once raw and intensely structured. His paintings, essays, and installations graced everything from the 1985 Whitney Biennial to ACT UP protest signs. If playwright Larry Kramer was the conscience of 1980s queer America, Wojnarowicz was the id—full of rage and lust, love and fear.
And he understood that that rage could be his weapon. In his essay “Do Not Doubt the Dangerousness of the 12-Inch-Tall Politician,” Wojnarowicz wrote that “to speak about the once unspeakable can make the INVISIBLE familiar if repeated often enough in clear and loud tones.” This was his central project, his central problem: how to make legible the queer outline of his life, which America would have rather seen destroyed, or, failing that, kept silent. Wojnarowicz believed that this articulation had the power to “shake the boundaries of the illusion of the ONE-TRIBE NATION,” his dismissive term for the false sense of shared experience that was at the heart of every two-and-a-half-child, three-car-garage, prefab, Norman Rockwell–style American dream. It was all part of the “pre-invented world”—the shit we are handed at birth, like language and capitalism—which was built to serve the needs of those in power and which Wojnarowicz rejected vocally and often.
by Leslie Stein
Chatting with the Artist Who Turned Edward Snowden into a Mobile Sculpture
On Friday, October 10, Edward Snowden appeared in New York’s Union Square, though few recognized him at first. You couldn’t blame passersby for missing him—the nine-and-a-half-foot-tall, 200-pound sculpture of the world’s most famous whistle-blower didn’t have any distinguising marks; he was just a giant white man made of concrete hanging out in the park. In a moment too serendipitous to make up, the first person to clearly recognize the model of the controversial NSA document leaker was none other than Glenn Greenwald, who happened to be eating breakfast nearby.
"It was totally random—we didn’t tweet at him or anything," said artist Jim Dessicino, who created the statue and put it in Union Square as part of the Art in Odd Places Festival. I talked to the Delaware-based sculptor and MFA candidate the next day, as he was unloading the sculpture in the Meatpacking District. “I emailed him months ago about the sculpture, and he never got back to me.”
Check back next week for E to H.
NYC: Richard Kern’s Throwing a Release Party Tonight for ‘Girl Friend Boy Friend’
We’ve spent years doing unforgivable things while looking at Richard Kern’s photos in the privacy of our homes, and tonight the photographer is offering us the chance to take our creepy fanaticism to the next level.
To celebrate the release of his new book and exhibition, Girl Friend Boy Friend (Shizen Books), Kern is throwing a party at Webster Hall’s Balcony Lounge in NYC where he’ll be selling undies, presumably worn by the babes in his pics. We’re not joking—there will be an edition of 100 panties, as well as 300 books at the event. For sale. Tonight. Take a deep breath, friends.
It will be like visiting one of those Japanese vending machines, but at a party filled with cool people, music, etc. The event goes until 4 AM, so you’ll have plenty of time to sneak a pair of those briefs into the bathroom for a big inhale. RSVP here.
After years of neglect, a new generation of fans discovered the seminal drama series—which has lead to a third season being greenlit by Showtime after 25 years. Are we forever cursed to be given everything we want until the end of time?