Silent March Held To Protest Controversial Film's Removal From National Portrait Gallery

10:39 PM, Dec 2, 2010   |    comments
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WASHINGTON (WUSA) -- The Transformer Art Gallery on P Street has began showing a video by an artist whose work was removed from the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery after critics complained about its depiction of ants crawling on Christ on the cross.

The work by David Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992, depicts the suffering caused by that disease and, in the version shown by the Transformer Gallery, includes a brief scene of a man masturbating.

The video monitor phases P Street and can be easily seen by pedestrians.

"This has gone too far. This has crossed the line," said a man who identified himself only as Michael from Minneapolis.

The father of five said he would be "extremely outraged if they had to see something like this."

Others approved of the work.

"It's great to have art readily available right in the window front," said Danielle Adams of Philadelphia.

Thursday afternoon, dozens of people, some wearing masks, gathered at the Transformer Gallery for a silent march to the National Gallery in protest of the film's removal. 

The film was created by Wojnarowicz in 1980 in response to his own battle with AIDS, but a Catholic organization calls some of the images hate speech.

It was part of an exhibit about sexual identity at the National Portrait Gallery, but an image of a crucifix crawling with ants caught the attention of the Catholic League.

9NEWS Now's Lindsey Mastis talked with Catholic League spokesman Jeff Field on the phone.

She asked, "Do you believe it's hate speech?"

Field replied, "Yes, this is hate speech. It's an insult to Christians. It's clear. You wouldn't have bugs crawling over an image of Muhummad. You wouldn't have bugs crawling over the Star of David."

A spokeswoman with the Smithsonian says the Catholic League never contacted them and that they only removed the film because its controversy was causing a distraction from the rest of the exhibit.

Transformer Gallery Executive Director Victoria Reis said, "That's censorship. That's definitely censorship"

She continued, "Our goal is to see this work reinstated."

The film offended Catholics, but removing the film has offended people dealing with AIDS and HIV.

Dave Purdy of D.C. told 9NEWS Now, "As someone who is HIV positive, such as myself, I can relate to all the different emotions and feelings you have. He was trying to represent through art work, as an artist, how that made him feel."

The Catholic League says they never requested the film be removed. Instead, they want Congress to reconsider funding the Smithsonian altogether.

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