BAGHDAD — The Islamic State militant group attacked the ancient archaeological site of Nimrud in northern Iraq and damaged it with heavy vehicles, Iraq’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said Thursday.

It was the latest in a series of attacks on ancient structures and artifacts in Syria and Iraq that the group has destroyed in the name of its harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Last week, Islamic State militants videotaped themselves destroying statues and artifacts in the Mosul Museum and at the Nergal Gate entryway to ancient Nineveh. The militants captured the city during its offensive blitz through much of Iraq last June. “The terrorist gangs of ISIS are continuing to defy the will of the world and the feelings of humanity after they committed a new crime that belongs to its idiotic series,” the ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page, referring to the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, ISIL or Daesh.

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Nimrud is the sprawling site of a city founded by the Assyrian King Shalamansar I, who died in 1245 B.C. Among the most impressive objects at Nimrud are the colossal statues known as “lamassu,” mythological creatures that depict either lions or winged bulls with bearded human heads. Pairs of the 17-ton statues are at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the British Museum.
Many of the massive Nimrud statues remain buried at the site. But the ISIS video from the Mosul Museum clearly shows at least one statue from Nimrud being defaced. And the site has many areas that archaeologists have not yet explored.

George C. Papagiannis, the Unesco world heritage officer in charge in Iraq from 2009 to 2011, said the loss of any artifacts from Nimrud was a dark blow to historical preservation. “These extremists are trying to destroy the entire cultural heritage of the region in an attempt to wipe the slate clean and rewrite history in their own brutal image,” he said.

He added that Nimrud was recently nominated by the Iraqi government to be placed on Unesco’s list of world heritage sites, locations chosen for their “universal value.”

Ihsan Fethi, a member of the Iraqi Architects Society, said, “I cannot even describe the immensity of this loss.” He added, “This is one of the most famous and probably one of the most important sites in the world.”

Nimrud is also famous for its bas-reliefs and steles that depict scenes of war and hunting as well as fantastical figures like bird-headed genies. Many of those are in museums. As well, Nimrud was the site of extensive excavations that yielded carved ivory, jewelry, crowns and other artifacts that are stored in the archaeological museum in Baghdad, which in recent days reopened to the public.

But the Nimrud site itself has suffered since the United States-led invasion in 2003, when it was virtually abandoned as Iraqi state structures collapsed. Looters stole and damaged many sculptures. However, Mr. Fethi said, the site was partly safeguarded by its remote location, and until now, its major structures were in good condition.

“Leaving these gangs without punishment will encourage them to eliminate human civilization entirely, especially the Mesopotamian civilization, which cannot be compensated,” the ministry added in its statement.

ISIS Attacks Nimrud, a Major Archaeological Site in Iraq
By ANNE BARNARDMARCH 5, 2015

It called on the United Nations Security Council to come to Iraq’s aid.

The destruction also comes on the heels of several years of wholesale ransacking of Syria’s ancient sites by many parties in the country’s chaotic conflict.

Mohammad Rabia Chaar, a Syrian writer and journalist now living in Belgium, said he had returned to Syria to support the uprising against Bashar al-Assad but became disillusioned in part because of the looting and destruction, and was eventually driven out by threats from Islamic State militants, before they in turn were largely driven from that province last year.

”Go and see Idlib, how all the ancient hills have been destroyed and looted, how bulldozers are digging.” he said. “The feeling of sickness is growing more and more, day after day, against these imperialist Muslims. Daesh wants people with no memory, with no history, with no culture, no past, no future.”

He said that while human lives were worth more than statues, erasing history and civilization was “killing them not physically but because of their thoughts.”

Omar Al-Jawoshy contributed reporting from Baghdad, Tom Mashberg from New York, and Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Lebanon.

Christian Genocide in the Middle East and Public Apathy in America
By Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou
Posted 2015-01-07 20:02 GMT
One of the last diplomats to leave Smyrna after the Turks set the great Anatolian port city ablaze in September 1922 was the United States’ Consul General, George Horton. Reflecting on the carnage and depravity of the Turkish forces tasked by Mustafa Kemal to destroy Smyrna’s Greeks and every physical semblance of their three-millennial presence in the magnificent city on the western littoral of Asia Minor, Horton wrote that “one of the keenest impressions which I brought away from Smyrna was a feeling of shame that I belonged to the human race.” The shame that Horton expressed stemmed from his shock and disgust, both as a witness to the Turks’ genocidal frenzy and as a diplomat aware that several Western governments, including his own, had contributed to the horrors that took place in Smyrna.
The destruction of Smyrna marked the dramatic, fiery climax–although it would not be the telos–of the Turkish nationalists’ genocidal project to annihilate the historic Christian populations of Asia Minor. The mass murder and mass expulsion of the Ottoman Empire’s and Turkey’s Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks from 1915 to 1923 marked the twentieth century’s first large-scale and systematic state-directed genocide, establishing a model that would inspire and be replicated by other criminal regimes throughout the following century. Moreover, the Turks’ policy of genocide encouraged imitation elsewhere, precisely because that holocaust against Christians was astonishingly successful and without penalties for the perpetrators. Indeed, the Turks not only achieved their objectives–the slaughter of three million Christians and the expulsion of another two million from their ancestral homes did, in fact, produce an essentially homogeneous Muslim Turkey–but they did so without any consequences, evading all accountability and any justice.

One of the chief reasons that Turkey escaped responsibility for its crimes against humanity was the complicity, albeit indirect, of several of the Western powers in those crimes. During the First World War, the Allies condemned the Turkish nationalist leadership that controlled the Ottoman Empire for its acts of genocide. However, once the war ended, various Western Allied powers (most notably France, Italy, and the United States), in pursuit of commercial concessions from the Turks, entered into diplomatic understandings with the Turkish nationalists, pushed aside and buried the issue of genocide, and even provided military aid and support to Kemal’s regime, thereby enabling the founder of the Turkish Republic to complete by 1923 the bloody “nation-building” project begun by his colleagues in the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

Despite the duplicitous postwar actions of several Western governments, popular sentiment in those same societies was deeply sympathetic to the plight of Christians in the Ottoman Middle East. A remarkable variety of international relief and aid efforts emerged throughout the West, especially in the United States, in response to the humanitarian crisis produced by Turkey’s policy of annihilating its large Christian population. The extermination and expulsions of Christians–Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks alike–in Turkey were widely reported in the United States, producing strident calls by several prominent diplomats, politicians, influential religious leaders, scholars, and the press to respond decisively to the crisis as a moral imperative and a Christian duty. Two years before the US even entered the war, Americans had answered this call to action by organizing the highly publicized, nationwide charity that would become known eventually as Near East Relief, which channeled millions of dollars in aid to Christian survivors of the genocide.

In sharp contrast to the American public’s outrage over the Muslim Turks’ extermination of Christians a century ago, the most recent genocide of Christians in the Middle East by fanatical Muslims, under the moniker of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has witnessed a very different response in American society–apathy.

In the year 2014, ISIS launched a reign of terror against Arab and Armenian Christian populations reminiscent of Turkey’s genocide a century earlier. As Islamic State forces advanced across the northern arc of the historic Fertile Crescent (the territory stretching across northeastern Syria and northwestern Iraq), ancient Eastern Christian communities were decimated. An undetermined number of Christians, many several thousands, were killed or enslaved by the Islamic State’s forces in 2014. In order to escape this fate, almost 250,000 Christians fled the areas occupied by the Islamic State. The Islamic State’s cleansing of the Christian populations under its control recalls and reiterates the project of nationalist Turkey, one in which nationalist Islamic forces functioned to create a homogeneous Muslim society in the territory under their control.

Tragically enough, the erasure of Christians in Iraq and Syria in 2014 is only the most recent episode in the wave of violence and persecutions against Christians that has been underway since the fateful United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 catalyzed the state failures and Islamist extremist mobilizations that are producing anarchy in the Near East. During the last decade of bloodshed and chaos in Iraq, and more recently in Syria, perhaps as many as 100,000 Christians have been killed and more than 1.5 million have been made refugees. As a result, Christianity now faces the possibility of extinction in the lands of its origin.

The American government’s response to this humanitarian catastrophe has been characterized by overt indifference. The Bush administration dealt with the embarrassing fact that its Iraqi misadventure had unleashed the destruction of the country’s ancient and large Christian population by ignoring and suppressing that fact. Simultaneously, the Bush government, either deliberately or through sheer folly, implemented occupation policies that undermined the security and prospects for survival of Christian communities in Iraq.

The Obama administration has continued and compounded the fecklessness of its predecessor administration. Most recently, in an effort to erase the humiliation produced by his reckless comment made in late July, that the White House had no policy to deal with the Islamic State, President Obama rushed to launch a policy initiative in early August. In a televised national address, President Obama announced that he had ordered military action against the Islamic State, rationalizing the move to limited air war in Iraq and Syria by invoking the US’ moral obligation to protect Iraq’s Yezidi religious minority from genocide at the hands of the Islamic State. The privations of the Yezidis certainly justified a response and aid, but the genocide and plight of the much larger Christian communities of Iraq, brutalized for more than a decade by the region’s mélange of Islamist extremist groups and actively and passively persecuted by the Baghdad government, were largely ignored in President Obama’s speech.

The US government’s indifference to the genocide of Christians in the Middle East is shocking, but, unfortunately, not surprising. The demonstrated disregard for the suffering of Christians in the Middle East by the administrations of Presidents Bush and Obama is entirely consistent with a double standard established by the moralizing hypocrisy of Woodrow Wilson in the midst of the first genocide of the twentieth century. In fact, American administrations have been willing not only to turn a blind eye to genocide against Christians in the Middle East; they have gone beyond that, by consistently supporting, at least since the 1980s, Turkey’s genocide denial efforts.

Yet, where is the public outrage? Although the US government has remained consistent in its indifference and duplicity on this subject, the attitude of the American public has undergone significant change. A century ago, the Turks’ genocide against Armenians and other Christians provoked public outrage and led to large-scale humanitarian relief efforts in the United States of America. A century ago, America’s civil society leaders, public intellectuals, and media mavens actively promoted awareness of the Turks’ crimes against humanity, and led popular initiatives to rescue Christians from death and suffering. The invocation in the public sphere of Christian duty and moral imperatives was sufficient to produce societal concern and action. In contrast, today, as the Islamic State completes the destruction of the historic Christian centers that Kemal’s forces did not reach, the American public’s response is one of apathy. The apathy is reflected in the measurable lack of public awareness campaigns and in the absence of activism when it comes to coverage about and support for the Christian victims of Islamist violence.

The cultural and intellectual currents, as well as official policies, that have aimed to expunge religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, from the American public sphere have been corrosive for any commitment to respect for faith and, especially, for assigning value to the survival of Christianity in human civilization. Signs of America’s emerging a-religious culture has also been instrumental in explaining public misperceptions about the Middle East as home only to Muslims and Jews, thereby rendering reporting on Christians in the Middle East largely incomprehensible or meaningless. In a word, the cumulative social and cultural changes attendant to the specific drivers and modes of secularization in America go a long way to explaining the reasons for American public apathy towards the annihilation of the Mideast’s Christians. Indeed, the knowledge, principles, and the very language–“Christian duty,” for example–that produced widespread outrage and drove humanitarian relief in response to genocide against Christians a century earlier have no place in today’s public dialogue, and for some, are viewed as vestiges of an exclusivist American identity that must be terminated.

The domestic politics of faith and US foreign policy concerns regarding religion have contributed to a worrying cynicism in how Washington policymakers engage on the issue of the Middle East’s disappearing Christians. This past August, President Obama introduced the Yezidis–a group unknown to Americans, indistinguishable victims, free from any association with Christianity–to justify limited military action against the Islamic State. Given current American political sensitivities towards Islam and social changes generating ambivalence and hostility towards Christianity, the President (much as with his predecessor) made no clarion call for action to protect today’s Middle East Christians–a group whose experiences in the Ottoman Empire were marked by the same options–pay a poll tax, convert, flee, or be killed–that face the Yazidis and the Christians suffering in the ISIS footprint.

This year, 2015, will be a year of centennial remembrance and commemoration of the Christian–the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek–genocide. It will also be a year of genocide denial, already planned and launched by the Turkish state, as well as by Turkey’s apologists in the US government, American media, and academia. In recognition of this tragic centennial, as well as the unfolding genocide in the Middle East in our time, this blog will return to these issues in several postings throughout 2015.

Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou is Professor of History at Salem State University, where he teaches on the Balkans, Byzantium, and the Ottoman Empire.

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Today’s Assyrian date: 6764 ,21 (adar) ܐܕܪ

For a link to the article, go here.

Syndicated News
Christian Genocide in the Middle East and Public Apathy in America
By Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou
http://blogs.goarch.org
Posted 2015-01-07 20:02 GMT

One of the last diplomats to leave Smyrna after the Turks set the great Anatolian port city ablaze in September 1922 was the United States’ Consul General, George Horton. Reflecting on the carnage and depravity of the Turkish forces tasked by Mustafa Kemal to destroy Smyrna’s Greeks and every physical semblance of their three-millennial presence in the magnificent city on the western littoral of Asia Minor, Horton wrote that “one of the keenest impressions which I brought away from Smyrna was a feeling of shame that I belonged to the human race.” The shame that Horton expressed stemmed from his shock and disgust, both as a witness to the Turks’ genocidal frenzy and as a diplomat aware that several Western governments, including his own, had contributed to the horrors that took place in Smyrna.
The destruction of Smyrna marked the dramatic, fiery climax–although it would not be the telos–of the Turkish nationalists’ genocidal project to annihilate the historic Christian populations of Asia Minor. The mass murder and mass expulsion of the Ottoman Empire’s and Turkey’s Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks from 1915 to 1923 marked the twentieth century’s first large-scale and systematic state-directed genocide, establishing a model that would inspire and be replicated by other criminal regimes throughout the following century. Moreover, the Turks’ policy of genocide encouraged imitation elsewhere, precisely because that holocaust against Christians was astonishingly successful and without penalties for the perpetrators. Indeed, the Turks not only achieved their objectives–the slaughter of three million Christians and the expulsion of another two million from their ancestral homes did, in fact, produce an essentially homogeneous Muslim Turkey–but they did so without any consequences, evading all accountability and any justice.

One of the chief reasons that Turkey escaped responsibility for its crimes against humanity was the complicity, albeit indirect, of several of the Western powers in those crimes. During the First World War, the Allies condemned the Turkish nationalist leadership that controlled the Ottoman Empire for its acts of genocide. However, once the war ended, various Western Allied powers (most notably France, Italy, and the United States), in pursuit of commercial concessions from the Turks, entered into diplomatic understandings with the Turkish nationalists, pushed aside and buried the issue of genocide, and even provided military aid and support to Kemal’s regime, thereby enabling the founder of the Turkish Republic to complete by 1923 the bloody “nation-building” project begun by his colleagues in the Ottoman Empire in 1915.

Despite the duplicitous postwar actions of several Western governments, popular sentiment in those same societies was deeply sympathetic to the plight of Christians in the Ottoman Middle East. A remarkable variety of international relief and aid efforts emerged throughout the West, especially in the United States, in response to the humanitarian crisis produced by Turkey’s policy of annihilating its large Christian population. The extermination and expulsions of Christians–Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks alike–in Turkey were widely reported in the United States, producing strident calls by several prominent diplomats, politicians, influential religious leaders, scholars, and the press to respond decisively to the crisis as a moral imperative and a Christian duty. Two years before the US even entered the war, Americans had answered this call to action by organizing the highly publicized, nationwide charity that would become known eventually as Near East Relief, which channeled millions of dollars in aid to Christian survivors of the genocide.

In sharp contrast to the American public’s outrage over the Muslim Turks’ extermination of Christians a century ago, the most recent genocide of Christians in the Middle East by fanatical Muslims, under the moniker of ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has witnessed a very different response in American society–apathy.

In the year 2014, ISIS launched a reign of terror against Arab and Armenian Christian populations reminiscent of Turkey’s genocide a century earlier. As Islamic State forces advanced across the northern arc of the historic Fertile Crescent (the territory stretching across northeastern Syria and northwestern Iraq), ancient Eastern Christian communities were decimated. An undetermined number of Christians, many several thousands, were killed or enslaved by the Islamic State’s forces in 2014. In order to escape this fate, almost 250,000 Christians fled the areas occupied by the Islamic State. The Islamic State’s cleansing of the Christian populations under its control recalls and reiterates the project of nationalist Turkey, one in which nationalist Islamic forces functioned to create a homogeneous Muslim society in the territory under their control.

Tragically enough, the erasure of Christians in Iraq and Syria in 2014 is only the most recent episode in the wave of violence and persecutions against Christians that has been underway since the fateful United States invasion of Iraq in 2003 catalyzed the state failures and Islamist extremist mobilizations that are producing anarchy in the Near East. During the last decade of bloodshed and chaos in Iraq, and more recently in Syria, perhaps as many as 100,000 Christians have been killed and more than 1.5 million have been made refugees. As a result, Christianity now faces the possibility of extinction in the lands of its origin.

The American government’s response to this humanitarian catastrophe has been characterized by overt indifference. The Bush administration dealt with the embarrassing fact that its Iraqi misadventure had unleashed the destruction of the country’s ancient and large Christian population by ignoring and suppressing that fact. Simultaneously, the Bush government, either deliberately or through sheer folly, implemented occupation policies that undermined the security and prospects for survival of Christian communities in Iraq.

The Obama administration has continued and compounded the fecklessness of its predecessor administration. Most recently, in an effort to erase the humiliation produced by his reckless comment made in late July, that the White House had no policy to deal with the Islamic State, President Obama rushed to launch a policy initiative in early August. In a televised national address, President Obama announced that he had ordered military action against the Islamic State, rationalizing the move to limited air war in Iraq and Syria by invoking the US’ moral obligation to protect Iraq’s Yezidi religious minority from genocide at the hands of the Islamic State. The privations of the Yezidis certainly justified a response and aid, but the genocide and plight of the much larger Christian communities of Iraq, brutalized for more than a decade by the region’s mélange of Islamist extremist groups and actively and passively persecuted by the Baghdad government, were largely ignored in President Obama’s speech.

The US government’s indifference to the genocide of Christians in the Middle East is shocking, but, unfortunately, not surprising. The demonstrated disregard for the suffering of Christians in the Middle East by the administrations of Presidents Bush and Obama is entirely consistent with a double standard established by the moralizing hypocrisy of Woodrow Wilson in the midst of the first genocide of the twentieth century. In fact, American administrations have been willing not only to turn a blind eye to genocide against Christians in the Middle East; they have gone beyond that, by consistently supporting, at least since the 1980s, Turkey’s genocide denial efforts.

Yet, where is the public outrage? Although the US government has remained consistent in its indifference and duplicity on this subject, the attitude of the American public has undergone significant change. A century ago, the Turks’ genocide against Armenians and other Christians provoked public outrage and led to large-scale humanitarian relief efforts in the United States of America. A century ago, America’s civil society leaders, public intellectuals, and media mavens actively promoted awareness of the Turks’ crimes against humanity, and led popular initiatives to rescue Christians from death and suffering. The invocation in the public sphere of Christian duty and moral imperatives was sufficient to produce societal concern and action. In contrast, today, as the Islamic State completes the destruction of the historic Christian centers that Kemal’s forces did not reach, the American public’s response is one of apathy. The apathy is reflected in the measurable lack of public awareness campaigns and in the absence of activism when it comes to coverage about and support for the Christian victims of Islamist violence.

The cultural and intellectual currents, as well as official policies, that have aimed to expunge religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, from the American public sphere have been corrosive for any commitment to respect for faith and, especially, for assigning value to the survival of Christianity in human civilization. Signs of America’s emerging a-religious culture has also been instrumental in explaining public misperceptions about the Middle East as home only to Muslims and Jews, thereby rendering reporting on Christians in the Middle East largely incomprehensible or meaningless. In a word, the cumulative social and cultural changes attendant to the specific drivers and modes of secularization in America go a long way to explaining the reasons for American public apathy towards the annihilation of the Mideast’s Christians. Indeed, the knowledge, principles, and the very language–“Christian duty,” for example–that produced widespread outrage and drove humanitarian relief in response to genocide against Christians a century earlier have no place in today’s public dialogue, and for some, are viewed as vestiges of an exclusivist American identity that must be terminated.

The domestic politics of faith and US foreign policy concerns regarding religion have contributed to a worrying cynicism in how Washington policymakers engage on the issue of the Middle East’s disappearing Christians. This past August, President Obama introduced the Yezidis–a group unknown to Americans, indistinguishable victims, free from any association with Christianity–to justify limited military action against the Islamic State. Given current American political sensitivities towards Islam and social changes generating ambivalence and hostility towards Christianity, the President (much as with his predecessor) made no clarion call for action to protect today’s Middle East Christians–a group whose experiences in the Ottoman Empire were marked by the same options–pay a poll tax, convert, flee, or be killed–that face the Yazidis and the Christians suffering in the ISIS footprint.

This year, 2015, will be a year of centennial remembrance and commemoration of the Christian–the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek–genocide. It will also be a year of genocide denial, already planned and launched by the Turkish state, as well as by Turkey’s apologists in the US government, American media, and academia. In recognition of this tragic centennial, as well as the unfolding genocide in the Middle East in our time, this blog will return to these issues in several postings throughout 2015.

Dr. Alexandros K. Kyrou is Professor of History at Salem State University, where he teaches on the Balkans, Byzantium, and the Ottoman Empire.

For the Assyrian International News Agency site, read here.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – August 17th, 2012

Contact: Bill Theodosakis: (718)-377-4656
Ioannis Fidanakis: (973)-464-0211

(New York, NY) – The Asia Minor Holocaust Memorial Observance Committee would like to invite you to this year’s annual Commemoration of the Greek Holocaust at Three Hierarchs Greek Orthodox Church on September 23rd, 2012. Organized by Archon Bill Theodosakis, this is the longest running annual commemoration for the Greek Genocide in the United States.

This year’s Memorial Service for the victims of the Greek Holocaust will begin at 12 noon and will feature guest speaker Professor Michael Stratis, Esq., as well as a few words from the Past President of Panthracian Union of America “Orpheus”, Ioannis Fidanakis. For those interested in attending the Church’s regular services, Divine Liturgy begins at 10:30 am.

Who: Asia Minor Holocaust Memorial Observance Committee

What: A Memorial Service and Observance of the ‘Megali Katastrophe’, Honoring the Victims of Thrace, Asia Minor and Pontos who perished at the hands of the Young Turks and Kemalists

When: 12 noon Sunday, September 23, 2012

Where: Three Hierarchs Greek Orthodox Church
1724 Avenue P Brooklyn, New York

As in past years we ask all Greek-American organizations to join us in commemorating and raising awareness for the Greek, Armenian and Assyrian Genocides. We urge others to follow Mr. Theodosakis’ example and organize similar events around the country within your local communities.

Important Dates Concerning the Greek Genocide:
April 6th: Pan-Hellenic Memorial Day for the Victims of Thrace
May 19th: Official Memorial Day for the Victims of Pontos
Sept 14th: Official Memorial Day for the Victims of Asia Minor

News from Diamanda’s Greek news correspondant and activist Dimitris Korizis concerning the HIV Witchunt in Greece.

 

Censored, Censured, but Never Forgotten: Rescuing the Legacy of a Controversial New York Artist
by Pia Catton, for the Wall Street Journal

Statement On David’s Short Version of “A Fire In My Belly”
by David Wojnarowicz Co-Filmaker and Collaborator Marion Scemama, Paris

Ant Rap
by Tony Phillips, for OUT Magazine

Statement on A Fire In My Belly’s removal from the National Portrait Gallery
by Diamanda Galás

Wojnarowicz’s Apostasy (The best piece Diamanda believes has been written in the media on Wojanorwicz’s legacy.)
by James Romberger

“X-Ray of Civilization”: David Wojnarowicz and the Politics of Representation
by Leon Hilton

Warhol Foundation threatens to cut funding over ‘Fire in My Belly’ fiasco
by Robyn Chelsea-Seifert

“Hide/Seek” Flap: “Silence = Death” (but so does intemperate rhetoric)
by Lee Rosenbaum

PPOW gallery press release in response to removal of David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” from Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition

New Museum press release regarding the exhibition of A Fire in My Belly

Censored, Censured, but Never Forgotten: Rescuing the Legacy of a Controversial New York Artist

By Pia Catton

Spanish Translation

PPOW Gallery is picking up where the Smithsonian left off.

On Thursday, the Chelsea gallery opens an exhibit of work by the late artist David Wojnarowicz, whose re-edited film “A Fire in My Belly” was removed from the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture” in November after objections from the Catholic League and Members of Congress.

The exhibition at PPOW, titled “Spirituality,” is intended to show that Mr. Wojnarowicz had much more to say on the subject of religion than was contained in the 4-minute adaptation shown in Washington D.C., which came under fire for its brief depiction of ants crawling on a crucifix. “There were a lot of misconceptions put out there that we want to clarify. This exhibit will present David’s views about religion,” said PPOW Gallery owner Wendy Olsoff.

On view through April 9, “Spirituality” includes the artist’s journals, photography and sculpture, much of which is directly related to “A Fire in My Belly,” which comprises two reels of unfinished film shot in 1986 and 1987, and recently preserved in a digital format. The short films are on view, as is Rosa von Praunheim’s 1989 documentary “Silence=Death,” in which Mr. Wojnarowicz (1954-92) appears, and to which he contributed film footage.

“Spirituality” comes at a time whn Mr. Wojnarowicz has gained sudden recognition for the censorship controversy sparked by a mere fragment of his work: The Smithsonian’s 4-minute edit was taken from a 7-minute excerpt of an unfinished film. The response in the art community was global and lightening fast—museums and arts institutions showed loaned DVD copies of the film (not the Smithsonian’s edit)—but it could not address the broader context.

“Showing the film was a quick response to the censorship,” said Ms. Olsoff. “The exhibition shows David’s thought processes in a much deeper way.” Estate of David Wojnarowicz/P.P.O.W. Gallery, New York The late artist David Wojnarowicz appears in Rosa von Praunheim’s 1989 film ‘Silence=Death,’ a documentary about the AIDS crisis.

The New Jersey-born, New York-bred artist, who died from AIDS-related complications at age 37, created painting, sculpture, film, poetry and music that explored themes of religion, individuality, culture and, in the 1980s, issues of AIDS and sexuality. Attempting to describe Mr. Wojnarowicz’s aesthetic leads even those who knew him well to pause. Marguerite Van Cook, a friend and collaborator who showed his work at the Ground Zero Gallery, which she owned with husband James Romberger, emphasized that breaking artistic boundaries was central to him. “As a painter, his work is expressionist. How do you transfer that to the Dada and German influence, and then just plain punk?” she said. “Then, he’s also text-based. What comes through all of these mediums is his power to deliver through his energy—to theorize and mix the tactile.”

That range is evident in the two reels of “A Fire in My Belly,” which includes footage from a trip to Mexico, a sculpture of a loaf of bread being sewn together with red thread and juxtaposed with the artist’s lips appearing to be sewn shut, as well as images of the crucifixion with ants crawling on the body of Jesus.

The new PPOW show includes the bread sculpture, as well as several photographs of ants crawling on objects, plus multiple works into which red thread is sewn. Mr. Wojnarowicz’s energy, however, is most visceral in “Silence=Death,” a film that is not for the faint of heart. He appears toward the end as an interviewee and as a performer reading his own poetry. Footage from “A Fire in My Belly”—much of it edited to music from Diamanda Galas’s “Plague Mass”—is spliced in for a searingly poignant effect.

“David is woven through it,” said Ms. Olsoff. “David worked on this video and saw it completed. It is the closest thing we have to the artist’s edit of the unfinished film footage called ‘Fire in My Belly.'”

The use of his footage in Mr. von Praunheim’s film, however, raises the question: If “Silence=Death” contained the last, possibly approved edit of his footage, what are the two reels (7 minutes and 13 minutes) that were shown around the world with the title “A Fire in My Belly” and acquired by MoMA?

Sabine Breitwieser, MoMA’s chief curator of media and performance art, acquired “A Fire in My Belly” for the museum after the Smithsonian controversy. “I believe the film is not raw footage,” she said. “It is something he edited in several versions. He was thinking about it a lot. These were things that were haunting him.” Ms. Breitwieser added that the acquisition had a two-fold purpose: “It was a gesture, in some ways, but to also deepen the holdings.”

Ms. Olsoff said the two reels of film mark a key point in the arc of the artist’s life. “The film was a pivot point. When he came back from Mexico, his world changed,” she said, referring to the AIDS era. “The images and work from Mexico became part of his new pieces that were directly about AIDS. Then if you look backwards to 1979, through his journals and art work, this thread of imagery related to Catholicism is there from very early on.”

Even if we cannot know what the artist intended, there is a certain irony in small work with such a broad message. Said Ms. Breitwieser: “It’s a great film fragment and bears all his practice in it.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, one of the great pioneers in electronic music and music video director for Diamanda Galas’ ‘Double Barrel Prayer,’ died on November 25, 2010. ‘Double Barrel Prayer’ will be shown at MoMa (NYC) in 2011.

Memorial by Michael Flanagan

Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson has been part of my consciousness for well over thirty years. The images that he produced as a partner at Hipgnosis, including the iconic cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ and the first three Peter Gabriel albums infiltrated our minds in the 70s before we even knew of his existence. This speaks volumes about the kind of influence he had and will continue to have as an artist. His work was beyond the works of artists who are consciously approached and consumed. It exists as a viral subrosa which entered our minds unbidden and continues to affect our vision.

Many of the memorials which have appeared in the press have mentioned the display which Sleazy did for Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren’s shop ‘Sex’ but none I could find described that the window featured body parts from mannequins and looked more like the product of a serial killer than an artist. It caused quite an uproar – even in the days of punk rock. Sleazy never stopped pushing boundaries in this way. He released songs with names such as ‘Boy in a suitcase’ and ‘His Body Was A Playground For The Nazi Elite’ and just recently released a video for The Threshold HouseBoys Choir which required my explaining to a fellow San Franciscan online that Sleazy was an artist who pointed to Passolini’s ‘Salo’ as one of the films which influenced him most. I hope that when people remember him they will remember that he was a transgressive artist who truly challenged the comfort level of his audience. In days that closely followed the era of ‘All You Need Is Love’ he was asking how you explain all of the horror and destruction in the world.

Part of the joy of Peter Christopherson was his sense of humor. I first called him after an introduction from Diamanda in 1991 on a stopover in London. The late author Steve Abbott had written a piece where I was quoted talking about the Coil song ‘The First Five Minutes After Violent Death’ and the first thing Sleazy said to me was ‘you mean you’re not a fictional character?’ A few years later, when talking with him about how appropriate the name ‘Mute’ was regarding Diamanda and the promotional efforts of the label he said that equally appropriate was the label name ‘Nothing’, which was (at the time) supposed to release the Coil CD ‘Backwards’ [they never did – it was self-published by Sleazy and Threshold House in 2008.]

I would be remiss if I didn’t say what a wonderful partner I thought Peter was to John Balance throughout their relationship. After the death of Derek Jarman John went through a very difficult period and the person who was always there providing support in a quiet yet constant way was Peter. By the end of John’s life they had moved past that part of their relationship, but it speaks volumes that they continued to live and work together. If people are to be known by their personal as well as their professional aspects then it should be known that Peter was a loving partner and friend to John.

His visual influence extended into the world of video in the 80s when he worked with artists such as Marc Almond, Gavin Friday, Nine Inch Nails and Jah Wobble on videos for their music. It was through his video work that Sleazy first work with Diamanda, on the video for her work ‘Double Barrel Prayer’ in 1988. And though he did work with musicians who challenged the often complacent music world it should also be noted that he was very successful in this field and was well represented in videos he did for popular artists including Van Halen, Paul McCartney and Robert Plant too.

As for his musical output I am at a loss as to how I can express what an impact he had on my life. As part of TG Sleazy was part of my sonic landscape since the late 70s. I was working in a record store in East Lansing, Michigan when ‘The Second Annual Report’ was released in 1977. Throbbing Gristle fulfilled a hunger I had in the Seventies for music which was visceral, noisy and challenging in days when Fleetwood Mac and the Bee Gees ruled the charts. I followed him through Psychic TV and into Coil. Coil was so much a part of my life that I had the logo from Threshold House tattooed on my arm. I was at the Castro theater when the Coil soundtrack accompanied the film ‘Frisk’ at the LGBT Film Festival. That film nearly caused a riot. From the first coil release ‘How To Destroy Angels: ritual music for the accumulation of male sexual energy’ through the release of ‘Panic/Tainted Love’ which benefited the Terrence Higgins Trust (among the first if not the first works to benefit an AIDS charity) they were part of my musical life. When their music appeared as part of the Derek Jarman films ‘The Angelic Conversation’ and ‘The Last of England’ I was in bliss. When their music appeared in Jarman’s last film ‘Blue’ I wept bitter tears. I was obsessed with the release of ‘Moon’s Milk (In Four Phases) and again found myself weeping openly when listening to the beautiful elegy ‘The Ape of Naples.’

How can a person who I only met once have had such an impact on my life? As someone who did not know him well I can only muse that if he had such an impact on my life I can barely imagine the loss felt by his friends. For me I am left with a hole in my life that I doubt will ever be filled as it is unlikely that someone with unique alchemical combination of characteristics that he had will reappear any time soon.