Transgressions: David Wojnarowicz, Post-Punk Cinema, and Queer Video Activism


Wednesday, June 27, 2018, 6:00pm to 8:00pm


Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street

David Wojnarowicz (1954–1992) was an American AIDS activist and artist who worked in photography, painting, writing, music, and film. A selection of his works are included in the exhibition Analog Culture: Printer’s Proofs from the Schneider/Erdman Photography Lab, 1981–2001, on view from May 19 to August 12, 2018. In conjunction with the exhibition, we are offering a chance to see the artist’s rarely screened films.
This program situates Wojnarowicz’s filmmaking in relation to the 1980s New York post-punk film movement known as Cinema of Transgression and the activist video culture that emerged in response to the HIVcrisis. First described in 1985 by filmmaker Nick Zedd, Cinema of Transgression artists sought to offend middle-class propriety by exploring taboo territory. Filmmakers like Zedd, Wojnarowicz, Beth B., and Richard Kern used humor, sex, and violence as an affront to the more sober practices of structural filmmakers at the time. Other artists, such as Gregg Bordowitz, took up video to explore the homophobic, classist, and racist rhetoric surrounding HIV and the AIDS epidemic and to consider the subjectivity and mortality of those who contracted the virus. Wojnarowicz’s connection to queer culture gave his own cinema of transgression a distinct perspective, with special emphasis on those surviving at the margins of American culture.

This evening’s program:

Richard Kern, The Manhattan Love Suicides: Stray Dogs (1985; 4.5 min.; black and white)
Richard Kern, You Killed Me First (1985; 12 min.; color) 
David Wojnarowicz and Jesse Hultberg, Beautiful People (1988; 34 min.; color)
David Wojnarowicz and Phil Zwickler, Fear of Disclosure (1989; 4:46 min.; color) 
David Wojnarowicz, A Fire in My Belly (Film in Progress) (1986–87; Super 8 mm film; 20:55 min.; color and black and white)
After the screening, artist A.K. Burns will discuss Wojnarowicz’s work and his life, death, and legacy with Jessica Bardsley, a Ph.D. candidate in film and visual studies at Harvard. A.K. Burns’s current Lightbox Gallery installation Survivor’s Remorse is inspired by Wojnarowicz’s photographs.

The screening and discussion will take place in Menschel Hall, Lower Level. Please enter the museums via the entrance on Broadway. Doors will open at 5:30pm.
Guests are invited to view the Analog Culture exhibition on Level 3 and Survivor’s Remorse in the Lightbox Gallery, on Level 5, after the talk, from 8 to 9pm.
Free admission, but seating is limited. Tickets will be distributed beginning at 5pm at the Broadway entrance. One ticket per person.

Support for this program is provided by the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund.

Click here to learn more.