Thursday, March 2, 2017
"A Fire in My Belly"
Wojnarowicz made “A Fire in My Belly,” in 1987 after the death of his mentor died of AIDS complications and he himself learned of his HIV positive diagnosis. This work, a compilation of moving images taken from a moving car in Mexico, marks Wojnarowicz move from the art world, to the world of politics and AIDS activism.
The images from the video are intense, and mirror the intensity of feelings faced by the gay community as many of its members felt as though this disease was a deliberate termination of people that society deemed “impure.” Wojnarowicz was profoundly angry at a government that barely acknowledged the epidemic and at political forces that he believed used AIDS, and the art created in response, to demonize homosexuals. Using Mexico, a religious country as a backdrop for “A Fire in My Belly” highlights the notion that spirituality and the marginalization of the gay community are very interwoven- whether either the gay community, or the religious community wants to acknowledge that or not. I think that Wojnarowicz is trying to expose the idea that Christ died for the sins of all of us, yet it seems as though a whole community is being wiped out. That justification between the calm and guidance that region is supposed to provide, against the images of crucifixes on the ground, mummies and bed animals, is supposed to point out irony and the idea that perhaps “goodness and grace” doesn’t exist. The notion of suffering and self-sacrifice are not only felt by christ, but of everyone involved with the AIDS epidemic.
One image that struck me the most was of the crucifix covered in ants between shots of bread sewn and blood dripping into a bowl and at the end, the the puppet and the globe both burning. The bread and the blood show that the mundane acts of life, such as eating bread and praying will not bring everyone joy, in fact it will just leave many disappointed that they in fact will not be saved. Similarly, the puppet also shows that we are all at the mercy of “master,” in this case, those who vehemently opposed efforts to curtail the spread of AIDS.
The work is depressing, but I think the subject that Wojnarowicz is trying to convey is that the gay community has no choice but to come together at this time to combat these depressing realities.