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The controversial 'Fire In My Belly' video that the Catholic League and conservative Republicans didn't want you to see


In the editorial Art or sacrilege?, the Times' editorial board takes on the Catholic League and conservative Republicans for asking the Smithsonian to remove David Wojnarowicz's video, "Fire In My Belly," from its National Portrait Gallery. They say it's an assault on Christianity and has no place in a publicly funded art exhibit. True, the video displays controversial religious imagery, such as ants crawling on a crucifix. But, the board argues:

"[I]t's deeply unclear whether Wojnarowicz's video work was intended as an attack on Christianity — the ants on the crucifix could be seen as a modern take on the theme of divine suffering that has been a subject of Christian art for centuries. That's the problem with letting censors determine what kind of art is socially acceptable: The meaning of a work is in the eyes of the beholder."

Following is a link to the video. Please be warned that the video may be offensive to some viewers and requires registration with YouTube to view. Watch "Fire In My Belly."


-- Alexandra Le Tellier


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Credit: Screenshot of David Wojnarowicz's video, "Fire in My Belly," on YouTube.


Comments () | Archives (12)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Mark Janssen

The Times chose not to show even the blandest of the Danish Muhammad cartoons in 2005. More recently the Times chose not to print the Non Sequitur “Where’s Mohammed” cartoon, even though only the title that alluded in any way to Mohammed. But today the Times argues for exhibition of the “Fire in my belly” work, posts images of it, and links to it, on this website. It seems the Times editorial policy is, "No terror, no respect." For the record, I would like you guys to publish what is newsworthy rather than not.

Dave Staszak

Been there at least once before. Remember "Piss Christ". Of course the censorship types were outraged and wanted it banned but Sister Wendy (love her) said that she thought the artist was saying that this is what we do to Christ when our behavior doesn't follow his teaching. A harsh judegment on us to be sure but a valid one and one worth trying to get across to those of hard hearts. More than just the eye of the beholder must be considered, the heart must be looked into as well.


Your poll may give skewed results. You placed a positive next to a negative in the first option (Yes. I don't....) - There is no need for the preceding "Yes".

Simply omit the "Yes" and leave the "I don't want my tax dollars...etc..etc..."

Emile Zola

I don't understand. If depicting the prophet Mahoma in any ridiculous, sacrilegeous way is O.K., what would be any different in a country that is supposed to proclaim the separation of church and state be an issue. There is an adage that says: If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen. We should be more outrage with America that bullies other countries about not going after our war criminals, or no option if off the table. Not prosecuting our war criminals is thousands of times worst than the depiction of Christ in any shape or form. This like America is too busy with trivia pursuit to go after war criminals and yet, this frail democracy of ours will not think twice about rattling the chains of other nations that behave more civil, and legal than us. Something is rotten in Denmark, I mean, America.

Scott Andrews

Hey Emile,
There is also an old adage: America, Love it or Leave it.. You hide behind your computer, and talk trash. About a country that gives you more civil liberties. Then damn near an other country. If you don't like America. Get the hell out and goto Iran or North Korea. You might be happier. We don't need you here. If this is such a bad country. Or better yet. Maybe you should come out of your moms basement, and run for office yourself, and talk the trash you talk now. I'm willing to bet you'll be ran back into mommies basement, or out of the country. Because none of us will want you here.

Tim Bowman

Although I voted, your poll is slanted in the correct answer is lacking: The Catholic Church did not object to the video, the objection was the use of public funds to portray it. If the "artist" wants to show this on his own nickel somewhere else, Catholics can object to it's content, but know full well that the Constitution allows it to be shown. Aside from all this, we refer to President Truman: "If that's art, I'm a Hottentot!"

Lisa davis

I don't understand your poll. If you say yes, then it brings up the subject of what is appropriate for art and that debate has been going on for ages. If you say no, then you are saying that the Catholic Church and conservative Republicans should be the judge of what is okay to show as art. I have studied art in college and I don't always like or feel comfortable with what a particular artist shows. Does that mean it is bad art? I just don't watch things that I find disturbing and move on to something else. I saw the video and noted it was made at a time when AIDS was seen as something many were ashamed of. It is filled with anger and suffering, and in my opinion goes overboard. But the again, so is "The Garden Of Earthly Delights."


I just watched "Fire in Mah Belly". What's the big deal? Okay, so it shows an image of Christ on the cross and giant ants running all over him. How is this any more offensive than the rest?

I guess I miss the historical and cultural context behind the video in the first place. Why would the Smithsonian want it anyway? I understand it's important to keep artifacts and collect samples of arts and culture from our history, but I can't say I clearly understand why "Fire in Mah Belly".

As for Congress and the Catholics, I'm a catholic and I am a constituent: catholics - worry about the message being put out by the abuse in our church. congress - you've got much, much bigger fish to fry. get back to work.


I find it sad that the Catholic League is so ignorant of art history...ants have long symbolized mortality and the passage of time, for example in the works of Salvador Dali. In fable and myth they also represent industrious labor...either way their juxtaposition with a crucifix is not in the least insulting to me, but thought-provoking in terms of how modern society interacts with Jesus' message. Are people too busy working to remember the message of the Gospels? How is Jesus' death on the cross connected to our own human mortality? Perhaps if these conservatives actually studied the art they seek to ban with such knee-jerk reactions they might encounter subjects for deeper spiritual reflection.


If you call it censorship, then you must call the artist's(?) work an offense. There's no reason other than a cultural one to determine what is culture.

Greg C

I'm sick of these gay activist like Jonathan David Katz who try and push the gay agenda down American throats - using religous symbols in art is attacking those religions and needs to be stopped - it is not free speach you are trying to protect one group of people while attacking another - that is wrong. The video is using Jesus Christ and the Holy Cross as a sysmbol to show what???? It's not needed and these gay activists need to go back into the closet where they belong.


Hey Greg C., spoken like a real bigot. Maybe it is you who should get into the closet. What makes you think that your beliefs and your needs and wants should take precedent over those of others? Personally, I think the film is crap but artists should have the right to express themselves even if it offends the small minded. Oh...and I'm not gay but am Christian.



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The Opinion L.A. blog is the work of Los Angeles Times Editorial Board membersNicholas Goldberg, Robert Greene, Carla Hall, Jon Healey, Sandra Hernandez, Karin Klein, Michael McGough, Jim Newton and Dan Turner. Columnists Patt Morrison and Doyle McManus also write for the blog, as do Letters editor Paul Thornton, copy chief Paul Whitefield and senior web producer Alexandra Le Tellier.

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