April 22, 2024

Art, AIDS, and New York in the 80's | Wojnarowicz (Full Film) | The Short List



Published June 11, 2023, 12:20 p.m. by Liam Bradley


The Short List is a film festival for everyone. On the first Thursday of every month, we’re airing a brand new documentary on the vice YouTube. Tune in this Thursday March 3rd to watch the first film in our series, a fiery and urgent documentary portrait of downtown New York City artist, writer, photographer, and activist David wojnarowicz.

A fiercely political, unapologetically queer artist, David wojnarowicz was especially critical of mainstream indifference to AIDS, the epidemic that would take his life at age 37. Exclusive access to his breathtaking body of work – including paintings, journals, and films – reveals how wojnarowicz emptied his life into his art and activism. Rediscovered answering machine tape recordings and intimate recollections from Fran Lebowitz, Gracie Mansion, Peter Hujar, and other friends and family help present a stirring portrait of this fiercely political, unapologetically queer artist.

wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker premieres at 2pm PT / 5pm ET / 10pm GMT on March 3rd, followed by an interview with Director Chris McKim.

Intro 00:00

wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker 01:29

Interview w/ Director Chris McKim 01:44:45

Click 'Set Reminder' to get notified when the film starts airing.

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[Music]

and realizing i got nothing left to lose

in my actions i let my hands become

weapons my teeth become weapons every

bone and muscle and fiber and ounce of

blood become weapons and i feel prepared

for the rest of my life today we're

screening moynirovic oh i should

have had that record he was a super

important artist

writer thinker and activist as each

t-cell disappears from my body it's

replaced by 10 pounds of pressure 10

pounds of rage he fought against the

system at the height of the aids

epidemic in the 80s and i can't believe

i had no idea who this guy was until

watching this film a bunch of us went to

jail david escaped

finally crafted using moynirovich's own

recordings phone messages and writings

it's a film that needs to be seen stick

around after and we'll talk to the

filmmaker

directed by chris mckim

here's waynerovich

so

[Music]

testing one two three

testing one two

testing testing testing testing testing

tests

[Music]

[Applause]

we rise to greet the state

to confront the state

when i was diagnosed with this

it virus take me long to realize i'd

contracted a diseased society as well

[Applause]

[Laughter]

it could be construed as critical but if

you're doing a show of aids there's

absolutely no way that you can separate

politics from aids here's what's

happening as we update our top stories

from east germany today took down the

berlin wall bottom line is i may be

dying of aids in america 1989 isn't that

political

i don't have health insurance and that i

don't have economic access to adequate

health care isn't that political

and to try to pretend that the subject

of aids cannot have

a political tinge to it is ridiculous

who was that

john mckenzie who's putting this up

together for pete or something of uh

world news

peter jennings yeah i mean like national

news yeah

oh i should have had that record

are you recording all of this today yeah

i mean you're going to make art out of

it tonight a manhattan art exhibit about

aids is losing a lot of federal money

because of what will be shown in the

exhibit the chairman of the nea states

we find that a large portion of the

content is political rather than

artistic in nature some of the content

includes criticism of cardinal o'connor

senator william danimeyer of california

and senator jesse helms for their

support of the new restrictive law thank

you this weather is certainly no work of

art so are you gonna do nightline

tonight uh

i somehow just can't see it i mean do

you think you'd put on a shirt if you

did well that's what i was thinking of

already my wardrobe i mean i if i did i

i might wear a ski mask

and uh you know

carry a bucket of gasoline

from philadelphia i'm terry gross with

fresh air

the art of david vornirovich has

recently been at the center of

controversy because the subject matter

deals with sexuality and aids

let's talk about how you started making

art now you came from a really rough

family background your your father

abused your mother you ended up in an

orphanage for a while then your father

kidnapped you from the orphanage

and you've written that you later threw

yourself into sex and you became a

hustler for a while how did you start

making art

[Music]

whatever work i've done it's always been

informed by what i experienced as an

american in this country as a homosexual

in this country as a person who's

legislated into silence in this country

one two three four civil rights or civil

war i'm not gonna be polite and

these people that want me to be

courageous there's no expression in that

other than silence as each t-cell

disappears from my body it's replaced by

10 pounds of pressure 10 pounds of rage

i tried very hard to be normal and tried

very hard to be accepted on some level

it's a terrific waste of time

buena robins

you

david was two years younger than me and

pat was sort of the big girl i don't

remember him ever

aspiring to do art or to be a doctor or

a lawyer or anything else i think we

were probably too consumed with trying

to survive at any given moment than to

be worried about what was going down the

road

dave and i used to go out in the woods

to get away from my father

he was horrific when he was drunk

i grew up in a tiny version of hell

called the suburbs i had a father who

brutalized both the first and second

wise physical violence any signs of life

in the family who supported with his

paycheck from his job as a sailor was

met with extreme violence in the

universe of the forest i didn't think of

what it felt like as a five or six year

old being dragged out of basement stairs

and had my head and body hit with a dog

chain or a sawed-off chunk of two by

four in my home one could not laugh one

could not express boredom one could not

cry one could not play one could not

explore one could not engage in any

activity that showed development or

growth that was independent

this life on the streets got really

rough and david ended up in a halfway

house he had not graduated from high

school at that point

when he finally went back to school was

when he discovered rambo and janae

they both

are outlaws and rebels and he always

identified with outsiders his whole life

and these were the outsider writers

testing tape journal one two three

[Music]

oh looks like we ended up in jamestown

north dakota

past the halfway mark between east and

west

feels like something out of an old west

picture

dusty roads and old board buildings

little family houses all around you

grades stretches the sky

long lines of trains the tracks when you

look at it just shimmer

it looks like thousands of little

animals running across

and there's the constant flapping of

bird wings like

occasionally hear a train whistle miles

away but

the trains never seem to get here

that was doggy french for uh high pin

heads uh i'm just sitting here in my

sister's apartment using her tape

recorder trying to figure out what the

hell to say

[Music]

as far as publishing uh forget it the

last woman that i sent the manuscript to

this woman and black son la soleil noir

called me up like after month and told

me she wanted to return my manuscript

you know she said that the people in the

monologues were wasted lives and it was

a waste of time to write about them

i mean everything she said just

reinforced my belief of its importance

it's like that i mean it's like the the

galleries too the stuff that i work on

takes so long to do that the price that

i'd have to ask if i was gonna make a

living off is just too much especially

since your tastes gravitate towards so

woolworthy and prince

i've been having like just tons and tons

of dreams of america and american road

and highways i really miss energy in new

york

paris gives you a sense of strange

security which does make me happy so i

guess i'll say goodbye here

[Music]

bye

ah

[Music]

[Music]

i was doing a series of photographs uh

martha rambo in new york

i got a job in an ad agency for all of

two and a half weeks operating a staff

machine then i ended up doing all my

homework

i started this face of arthur rambo blew

it up it made a flat mask

riding subways wandering all through the

warehouse hustling at times

david was taking brembo through what was

his world in new york

i grew up as a hustler i grew up

hustling in times square and all sorts

of places all around new york

man of

all different descriptions

[Music]

and just take off and end up getting

picked up by some guy in the sun or you

know whatever

by the time i got off the streets when i

was about 17 or 18 i had to turn to

making things because i basically could

never

find a place to ever express what i had

experienced i remember one of the most

emotional experiences was one day being

picked up by this guy who was very

creepy

and i remember blind on this dirty bed

that was one of these cheap hotels and

this guy sucking my dick

his mouth was sticky and that he would

kiss my leg and there would be like this

gummy

kind of stuff on my leg and it was all

the stuff that i was really repulsed by

and not enough to not have a heart on i

remember feeling all this incredible

motion for this guy i just felt so sad

for him at some point like reached under

his arms and pulled them up to me and

kissed them on the mouth which is the

thing that i least wanted to do

he started weeping and just said

nobody's ever done that and ended up

giving me extra money and whatever which

i was quite happy with

there was a lot of violence it got

robbed just about every day you always

get shaken down by groups of kids or

champions

it's like a whole experience of living

on the streets when i ran away from home

of feeling the world set up in such a

way that it seems

that i'm constantly working against it

rather than

alongside

most guys that i meet their lives are

just so completely different you know

there's there's no real communication

where i can feel totally free and

expressing my ideas and my desires and

my experiences

my experiences as a hustler seems to be

one thing that sits on the back of my

shoulder

one thing that's incredibly hard to

convey to people is the level of

promiscuity of that era this is

something that's really hard to describe

people younger we thought sex was good

for you that what was bad for you is not

having sex and what was bad for you was

repression of sexuality that was bad

this is before aids or before we were

aware of those

i grew up in north carolina and when i

first moved to the east village

it was cliche things you see in the

movies and drug dealing places

dealers standing around selling coke and

coke and dope cnd

people sandy how much the rest of

america hated new york we were a bunch

of junkies and suckers as far as

america was concerned and there was a

real sense of cultural decline

there had been this huge shift between

the kind of idealisms of the 60s and the

first civil rights movement the anti-war

movement all these things had derailed

by the mid 70s

and so we were responding to that in

different ways

i walked up to the park and the streets

were completely empty and traffic was

non-existent

i opened up my pants

and i walked up and down the pathways

and there's just like this really quiet

sort of loneliness there

i mean i felt like it was like you know

back where it started from

i've been filled with this sense of

of

anxiousness and the fact that i'm 26 and

thinking about myself and my values my

actions and thinking about the effect of

people on people wondering if any of

it's

meaningful if it's futile

trying to figure out what it is that my

life is and where i've been going

[Music]

this is a man whose time has come a man

whose principles have been familiar to

americans for 30 years a man whose

accomplishments make him the natural

choice for president of the united

states we will

make america great again

thank you very much

reagan is the president of this country

now

going through a time in my life that

seems desperate surreal awful and

slightly wondrous all simultaneously

met a fellow a month or so ago peter

hujar photographer who

in some interesting ways is like a

mirror of scenes i'm entering

he has the same desperate and at times

confused outlook

but mine is the one seat of hope that i

have in me

the relationship between peter and david

is one of the most

interesting

relationships between artists

in a very long time

more interesting than

van gogh and gilgame

very

very special and unique

when peter started his career as a

photographer in the 50s it was not

considered a real art form his

photographs were mostly portraits mostly

of people he knew but he did know some

rather famous people you know he's truly

an artist but peter was very difficult

and in terms of having a career he was

not very good at it

these worlds were very small

the new york art world fit in one

restaurant one restaurant okay i heard a

peter before i met him the number of

people who would have heard of peter you

know

12.

he may have been a saint on avenue a but

it was underground thing

he did not have that standing in the

quote real art world he was stranded

nothing was going nowhere

how do you go holy dough

this is huge arena again

i was wondering if david's steam

vegetable was there this is peter

fast juice

[Music]

peter last night in the bar when i told

him about doing her portfolio and

throwing out all the drawings that i

thought were aggressive or upsetting

told me not to throw out any drawings

no matter what my taste is and what my

ideas are if i feel it's good and it'll

be somebody who will pick up on it

i shouldn't start compromising and

trying to adapt to other people's tastes

and last night i was standing around

here at five six in the morning

looking through the portfolio looking at

my photographs

[Music]

i was really startled it was like the

first time that i sat down and really

looked at them in ages since i did them

and i realized that they are good

[Music]

and that there's absolutely no reason

for me to deny them or throw them away

they're my life and i don't know what to

anybody to distort that

just for their comfort

i think that everything

david

thought an artist could and should be

was embodied by peter

and peter was

the purest

of the law

[Music]

peter had tremendous respect

for anyone else who had that same drive

called them those people

and those people were

special

he was a tough judge

and when he discovered david he realized

he's one of them

this guy is one of them

he's talented in a chaotic way and peter

saw right away both the talent and the

chaos

when peter first met david and talked

about him i pays your attention to peter

about this zero i didn't pay that much

attention to the people i was sleeping

with i don't know why i should pay

attention to the people that peter was

sleeping with

i was under the impression that he was a

teenager because he had that band called

like fourteen still three or three teens

killed four which of course i never

heard of

this story about three teens playing for

the first time it has to do with dancing

teary being shut down and not having a

liquor license

gage and i were bus boys at dance

security we worked together it was an

interesting crowd of people

caring was a boy there too and madonna

was hanging out

they advertised having a full bar until

eight in the morning in the times mind

[Music]

we were raided a bunch of us went to

jail david escaped

and then he had concocted a molotov

cocktail from him to blow up the police

vehicle

but we couldn't figure out how to do it

without you know hurting people

we spent the night in jail

and then glamorized that event you know

we put on a show

now i don't know why we thought we

needed a benefit for fun

because the mob paid for the

lawyers who got our cases to smith

jerry a little more volume on the drums

anyway we had a benefit so we threw

together that three teams killed four

[Applause]

[Music]

so after we played the first gig

jesse and i and david wanted to continue

it

i knew their drummer had fallen out i

went and bought a rhythm machine because

i didn't know how to play anything i

thought well i can push buttons so i did

that

i don't think any of us are very

proficient but it wasn't really the

point

it was an effort to not really

necessarily make music but to have a

film almost for your ears

we ended up calling it the cacophonic

barrage

supposed to music

we were really ahead of our time with

the use of samples and

that was david's instrument david would

come up to a mic with his handheld tape

recorder and blast sounds

[Music]

a revolver made all men six feet tall

i heard a rumor that frank zappa was in

the audience one time when we played and

he said that we used the tapes like lead

guitar

which i thought was a great comment

there was a time in america

that if a quote unquote glory hole

appeared

the police would throw them in jail

morrow's churches

limp-wristed scissors

david wasn't really of the art world at

that point in time he was just an

individual that was doing his thing he

used to come over to my house to make

art

because there was more room in my house

than in his house which is funny because

i had a tiny east village apartment with

the bathtub in the kitchen and the

toilet in the hallway

we would get on the floor and make

stencils and posters for the band

[Music]

you

so i started thinking about more

permanent things and i started going

down the street

i put up images around after place along

8th street

but i didn't have any intention of being

a street artist

i was just being provocative

ready on the firing line

all night i went downtown and hit every

gallery door i could find

with images of the burning house the

plane and the figure

it was an aggressive thing

and the idea of new york city streets

filled with soldiers

that kind of tense atmosphere

i was just a rabid fan of david he was

pretty obscure at that time

but i knew about the piece him and julie

hare did when leo costelli building

the shrine to contemporary art at that

time julian and i wanted to do a series

of action installations which were

basically uninvited installations

we wanted to open up what culture was to

us

as opposed to what was handled by rich

white people

i don't really remember any planning

stages of this but

we went to the west side where all the

butchers were the meat packing district

which used to be a meat packing district

um you wouldn't ever want to go there

because the smell of blood from the

actually butchering and packing meat

there were big cans outside of the

butchers with giant cow bones in them

so we got a bunch of bones

we put them in this little wagon

we brought a couple hundred pounds of

bloody cow bones dumped them into the

staircase

did a stencil painting with spray paint

of an empty plate a knife and a fork

and then military bombers houses and

flames and figures were coiling on the

wall and then left they stenciled the

despair of new york at that time and

then they pour gallons and gallons of

cow's blood down the stairs

nobody seemed to think anything was a

myth

i imagine they thought it was just part

of the art world

[Music]

six months later i was still doing stuff

in the street

that's when somebody approached me from

one of the galleries and asked me if i

wanted to put a painting on one of the

shows so i said sure

david ends up in a show with people like

julian schnabel and david hockney and

lots of people who are famous he was

completely unknown

a lot of artists were doing graffiti in

east village keith herring and basquiat

and david was doing it

there were no resources like now you can

go down to the lower east side and

there's like a dozen young galleries

you've never heard of that are showing

stuff there was nothing

there was soho

and there was uptown and there were

these established galleries

we didn't feel we had any entree into

there so we created space so we could

show our work and have fun

dean savard and i started the gallery

through a series of one night parties

there was no real intention of making

any money we would put the yard up for

one night we'd invite friends sit around

on the floor drinking beer smoking pot

talking about art

when my gallery first started had gotten

i think 200 back from my taxes and i

thought oh let's have a party

i had photographs in my bathroom and my

bathroom was a toilet and three walls

because the bathtub was in the kitchen

that was the lou division the gracie

manchester gallery lou division l-o-o

never did i think that anybody would

show up after the party

eventually we decided that oh we'll

leave the art up for a little longer we

were really drawn to david's

militaristic imagery

we decided that we would put him into a

group show

[Music]

we put this

really large painting that david did it

was one of the most unusual things i had

seen an artist do expressing what was

going on around us at the time where

mankind stood at that point where

self-annihilation could occur

we were actually trying to sell the work

i'm trying to remember how much we were

asking for i think probably around five

thousand dollars

of course we didn't sell it because

nobody was coming into the gallery with

that kind of money back then

the interesting thing about these

village though when they were artists

that were really kind of special

everybody knew about it or they'd be

this buzz about it so there was a little

bit of buzz about david he had that book

sounds in the distance which came out

and i was so impressed because on the

back it had blur by william burrows and

i was like oh my god this artist must be

really incredible because william

burrows wrote something about it

when we did the famous show which was in

82 we were looking for portraits of

famous people by famous and soon to be

famous artists

david brought in this painting peter

hujar dreaming about yushio mishima and

saint sebastian at the last minute after

everything was already up on the wall

typical typical

there was like no space because there

were so many people and he had a really

big piece so where are you going to put

a really big piece of hanging from the

ceiling that's why i love this

photograph of the opening where you

can't really see any of the art but you

can see david's piece because it's on

the ceiling

early images were all very simple images

but i just wanted to record things that

i didn't see people recording and

painting at that time

you know i want to

record my own history or a different

history

and that's what painting originally was

for me all the paintings are diaries

that i always thought as proof of my own

existence

[Music]

[Applause]

[Music]

confirmed a short time later that the

president had indeed been shot

the president was shot once

in the left chest the bullet entered

from the left side

he is in stable condition mrs reagan

rushed to the hospital and the president

jokingly told her honey i forgot to duck

it could be misconstrued that one is

celebrating reagan's assassination

attempt but his media critique he was

wheeled into surgery

[Music]

had a song called hunger which was about

the underclass and disparity wealth in

this

country i see these things every day

every

[Music]

day

[Music]

images dreams

last night i ran into brian and jesse

discovered them to be in a big

discussion about the politics of clubs

and politics of

[Music]

i just did not want to hear it

when you're trying to do a job

and support yourself and be able to do

things that you feel are really

important

there were lots of different reasons why

he wanted to leave and and

he wanted to do painting he wanted to

have more control over what he was doing

i remember having an argument with david

he said to me i can't really be friends

with someone who doesn't like what i do

artistically i said well david there's a

lot of your art that i don't like

there's a lot of that anger that i don't

relate to and don't necessarily want to

collaborate with

[Music]

hi this is helen of troy calling from

poughkeepsie

oh got you on that one ha ha goodbye

hi this is cjr i was just checking to

see whether you're in your places

painterliness why

david came over to our place early one

morning

he said you guys got to come to this

huge pier with all these walls and

there's nobody there

we had to slip under a chain-link fence

got into the building and it was

really impressive remarkable space

for years been abandoned like a couple

football fields in size

the idea was for artists to

make work there surreptitiously

it was very adventurous and illegal and

that was very much connected to david's

knowledge of the peers as a place for

sexual trysts and that whole subculture

around it and in a way they kind of

spoiled that spot and we could go there

for their acts anymore because there

were too many people traipsing through

the ground floor

was thousands of square feet with very

high ceilings

and upstairs there were rooms

david and i found

piles of

discarded

files

psychological evaluations from bellevue

they had them draw pictures of men and

women and you know most were very very

loose you know it's like how you drew in

elementary school or something like that

and then others were sort of more

you would say like

sophisticated or this or that but they

were very emotional and had a great deal

of resonance in them

hi david

i think you've got my squeegee for silk

screening and i need it okay

i was doing a lot of silk screening then

and i taught him how to make silk

screens

so we decided to use these images and

make a

collaboration

the first time i met david it wasn't

physically

it was more mind to mind like a

vibration

it was summer 83 i wasn't involved in

the art scene but one day there's a

french photographer who came to visit

new york

and he said

did you hear about the abandoned pier

where all these artists go and paint on

the walls and do things and i say no

he took me there

i fell in love with that place you know

it was like

so deathly romantic

one day somebody told me the story of

this artist david wanarowicz who opened

the place

and i remember right away i had a crush

on this guy i thought this guy must

really be great you know to open a place

like that to call people to come and

collaborate and paint

for me he was already somebody

special

in the end you know hundreds of artists

were doing things there and french

fashion magazines were doing shoots in

there

it got so big the police came

they closed it down

the whole magic was lost

[Music]

they started tearing it down

and i have a picture of the gagging cow

of david's while the pier is being

pulled down

then the pier disappeared into the river

and was was gone

the east village scene exploded at the

same time

it wasn't until david had his first solo

exhibition for us that everything broke

loose

the first exhibition was very

interesting in a sense that it was

something nobody had really seen before

painting things that weren't really

intended to be painted on he stenciled

images over supermarket posters

trash can lids

driftwood everything was about something

that was found and didn't cost anything

because again nobody had any money there

was that exhibition

that grace glueck the new york times art

critic rode up on our bicycle and

started looking at the artwork asking us

about the artist and asked for a

photograph of one of david's pieces

grace blewett showed up and was really a

joke to us that she wanted writing

something and so for us it was very

tongue-in-cheek you know did these very

serious interviews and she went around

to other galleries like crazies and

suddenly boom an article appeared in the

sunday lifestyle section of the new york

times it talked about the galleries in

the east village david's artwork it was

after that the collectors really started

coming down

this limousine pulls up in front of our

little gritty drug infested street

robert pincus whitten who's an art

critic in new york and a very elegant

woman comes into the gallery they look

at each piece examining robert's

whispering in her ear soon after he said

we'll take this one this one this one

and this one we'll take that one over

there and it was like oh my god i

practically ran over the pyramid and

david and dean were having a beer i said

oh my god we sold so much work it was

such a euphoric feeling

all of a sudden the art worlds gave this

east village scene it's 15 minutes famed

our neighborhood now the sudden had 60

galleries in it and that people were

coming by in limousines

you we were going

around the gallery putting the names on

these little stickers on the wall

and what's the name of this one and

david said you

there's a piece of torn paper that david

found on the street that somebody had

written this homophobic slur on

i've said david that's so offensive do

we have to call it that david was like

that's the name it's gonna stick

you i walked in and

the painting just riveted me it's

two boys kissing over a map

and then on the four corners there's

brian butterick posing as saint

sebastian and there was david posing in

the christadora

i said i'll give you three thousand

dollars and he said sure

back then 1984 that was a lot of money

but it's been a prized possession since

then

hi david it's marissa prison rape is

back it just walked in the door from

montreal so could you come pick it up as

soon as possible thank you

i think a lot of the reason david is

important now is because people

recognize emergent queer sensibility in

david i'm not gay as in i love you i'm

queer as in off

everything i did with david

was collaboration but the concept of it

has always been david he proposed to

make a poster about being queer in

america

david knew a place under the brooklyn

bridge we went there with the track i

put some blood on david's face

we lit a scene with the lights of the

truck and we took the photo

i went through the dark room and i

started printing the photo it scared me

it really scared me to see this image of

david bitter coming under the chemicals

it looks so real a number of months ago

i read the newspaper that there was a

supreme court ruling

which states that homosexuals in america

have no constitutional rights against

the government's invasion of their

privacy the paper stated only people who

are heterosexual or married or have

families can expect these constitutional

rights and realizing i got nothing left

to lose in my actions i let my hands

become weapons my teeth become weapons

every bone and muscle and fiber an ounce

of blood become weapons and i feel

prepared for the rest of my life

hi david it's gracie can you

give me a call at home about the whitney

85 was a big year

david had two major pieces in the

whitney biennial i mean that's amazing

everything happened really fast

hi i wanted to make sure somebody told

you you made the front page of the

washington post on sunday for the

biennial a big reproduction of your

piece okay

it was major for all of us to be

accepted in the bigger art world

but david wasn't like oh my god i got

into the whitney bay and not at all no

no i mean he really thought about

whether he wanted to do it

david has a certain kind of political

consciousness that plays into his work

who owns it where it's shown the whole

thing

he was not particularly thrilled about a

bunch of rich money capitalist people in

the whitney thinking that he was great

there's no gratification for that in him

and those people are very classy and

judgmental

he

wanted to be recognized by people that

would appreciate his work but the right

people for the right reasons

you know peter hujar had a lot of the

same attitude

the gallery system is one of the big

obstacles

to art yeah it's all about recently that

there's art stars there's people who

make tremendous amounts of money

overnight

art today it is a commercial product so

the people are doing art that looks like

art likely having a

product and i think that when an artist

perceives what he does as a product

he's in trouble does it i mean it's like

they turn into one many factories and

there's nothing human about it there's

no

there's no thing

hey david you know you're in new york

magazine they did a review at the

biennial and they reproduced your piece

but i also wanted to talk to you about

the minutiae okay bye-bye

adrian and robert mnuchin were two

collectors he was on wall street and she

had a cashmere store and her name was

adrian now it's like adriana or

something but anyway at that time she

was adrian they commissioned david and

it was the most money that david had

ever gotten for anything to do this big

installation in their basement

he needed the money so he was glad that

i had made this

sale but a part of him really

was very unhappy about it

david didn't really like rich people

so he took all this garbage off of the

street and put it into the installation

they were scouring all the vacant lots

to grab the nastiest they could

you know it looked like the plague could

descend upon their place basically

filled it with trash and made a

beautiful installation out of it but so

much of it just looked like tetanus

and it had bugs

adrian was like freaked out these bugs

were being brought into her pristine

brownstone

of course david loved he brought in more

david hi it's gracie i'm just checking

in seeing how everything's going with

the installation if you need any help

and what's up basically just a what's up

call

um

okay i want to talk to you okay bye-bye

so when you look at the photographs

peter hujar took of that installation it

was all garbage it was great like a lot

of figures

there was the burning child and there

was the big mural in the background

there was a tree and a lot of cow skulls

it was an incredible installation

well in retrospect that was mnuchin the

a-hole dealer whose son steve mnuchin is

is part of trump's cabinet these

they got really angry with that sudden

attention money being thrown out i mean

i was starving three years yeah and then

it suddenly crossed a line where what i

make is feeding me is it's giving me all

this stuff but then i have all this hate

about the structure of that because it's

so full of this is something that

rattled me i realized that i came out of

a totally violent up background

growing up as a kid came to new york

went on to the streets almost died on

the streets but once your economics are

taken care of once you don't no longer

have to struggle with abraham or

i don't know if you're home

or maybe you're sleeping

well the first thing i want to say is

that your paintings are fantastic i am

so impressed i'm so proud of you

i tried to take pictures but they

wouldn't let me use the flash and i

paddy was always close to david love you

a lot bye

even after we grew up we were completely

split up

so the first time i ever learned about

his artwork i picked up some magazines

and there was david in life magazine i

was so much in awe with saying wow look

where this guy is at you know

i finally found a way to get touch with

him it was an interesting thing to sit

down with him i came to new york and he

started spewing off about he was a child

prostitute he's gay

and i got the feeling that he

was testing me

i think he was afraid

that i would never accept him

being gay i just was glad that he was

okay

okay

i don't know if you need maps for your

artwork but i just threw out about 5 000

of them today i worked for aaa so he had

free maps whenever he needed him i'd

make sure he got him maybe i could save

me some money

okay bye

hey david this is richard i just wanted

to get together with you and talk about

making a movie or something like that

i'm up give me a buzz bye

it was one of those nights david and i

wanted to get high i said hey why don't

we try shooting ecstasy i've got some of

that

david and i got into this deep deep

conversation i said let's make a movie

where we try to figure out why young

people are the way they are the punks

and all that stuff and just shout quick

movie i think we did in a day david

played the father karen finley played

the mother it ended up being a lot of

things from david's childhood he

definitely had the most up

stories

stop playing with your food

you call this food look it isn't even

cooked it's all bloody shut up

david said that when he was a kid they

had a rabbit my father got us rabbits

and he said he gave away the rabbits and

then

patty found out somehow that he hadn't

butchered him we wanted to beat our pet

rabbit which i think was horrific and it

really bothered david too you know what

this is

see that that's my bunny what are you

doing to it and you know what this is

david finally was starting to deal with

what had happened to him during his

childhood

he started using heroin

it was almost

a social drug in the east village

i had some junk that i had laying around

so i did it in the bathroom

the light and everything just started

making me feel sick

david took drugs in a way that peter was

sure would destroy him and peter knew

too much

about the way artists can sabotage

themselves to let that go one step

further

at some point peter said david what are

those marks on your arm

he tells nothing he said don't tell me

it's nothing and you are going to stop

taking heroin

today

right now

you will never take it again as long as

you live

and if you do i will never speak to you

again

you will be dead to me

david started crying and he'd stopped

heroin

he never took it again because peter was

the most important relationship in his

life

they first had an affair but i don't

think that lasted that long

and then they were friends but at a

certain point i really thought of david

as peter's son

peter didn't think of miss peterson and

probably david didn't but to me that's

what it seemed like well what else can

we talk about

what was the great love of your life

what was it was

i mean the great love of my life is my

work

i don't think i've ever had one

i don't know

[Music]

i met david at the bijou theater

which was a gay porn theater

our eyes met and we

went to the bathroom and had a little

bit of sex and i said why don't you come

over to my apartment

which i rarely did with people that i

met there but i was just fascinated with

this guy

we left and i asked david what he did

and he said he was a painter and i said

what of houses

and he said no no no i paint things

apparently he was quite well known in

the east village and i didn't know who

he was i had no idea

so he came over and we had a

really sweet night he left me a little

painting that he did for me that i

really loved and we started seeing each

other

i felt my world was very different after

i met david i was totally

swept up with him so here i am

heading out into the cold winds of the

canyon streets walking down and across

avenue sea towards my home the smell and

the taste of them wrapped around my neck

and jaw like some scarf

and how it follows me in and out of

restaurants and past cops and early

morning children and past bakery windows

filled with brides and grooms on rows

and rows and rows and endless wedding

cakes

hey juicy lips are you there

it's about 12 david kept talking about

this best friend of his that he had in

the east village and we had to go see

him and his name was peter and peter and

all of a sudden i said

are you talking about peter hujar and he

said well how did you know that

odigo well i had a little affair in the

70s with peter for a month and i kept

thinking oh great peter's going to tell

him i'm an

but peter thought actually that i was

good for david you know that i could

help david i could be a

settling

kind of thing for him which actually

probably is true but they were so close

that it was

i couldn't even describe what that was

much different than our relationship and

i'm just trying to figure out where i

fit in his life he said i have three

priorities in this order peter my art

and you

but i had to find that to be okay it was

hard at first but

as i looked at it i realized there was

no threat there this was a whole other

thing

hi david this is carla wishing you a

happy new year

hi baby this is bridget i wanted to wish

you happy new year

holy joe hodie doe

it's the nuff er and the monks last

night were great you would have actually

loved them i think there were 10 of them

and they sang in voices that was like

no deeper than that

oh

no i can't do it

[Music]

it was really nice they did a healing

ceremony

well anyway that's all i have to say

goodbye

i took you to the doctor

i don't remember what was wrong with

peter how peter felt that made him have

the test

they didn't tell you there

it took two weeks for this test to come

back and

i remember very much that peter called

me

and i can't describe to you

i said

how are you and he goes fran and then he

made this sound like um

like a not a scream a kind of a scream

more it sounds to me like an animal

sound not like a human

to say his test came back possibly

when peter was diagnosed with aids i

came over 10 minutes later he went to

meet me at the door and there was some

mail that arrived and it fell on the

floor and i remember picking it up and

turning and just saying even something

like getting a piece of mail has an

entirely different meaning and from that

i constructed something

of what this man is facing

and i felt very sad i felt angry i felt

fear i felt a possibility my own

diagnosis

david was sitting at the table and he

was crying and i didn't know what was

going on and he told me that peter had

been diagnosed with aids

he was destroyed i mean it was so

emotional for him it was so upsetting

when peter was diagnosed david asked me

if i could help him

because peter really had no income he

had no money he had no reason he had

nothing and he didn't want to lose his

apartment

i worked as director of new york city's

aids program and it was through tom that

i met david

this was an epidemic of great

proportions

and the city ignored it for quite a

while

in fact everyone ignored it

[Music]

people with aids who were getting sick

and losing their jobs were coming to

apply for public assistance

because aids had a stigma already none

of the traditional systems in place

wanted anything to do with them the

staff wouldn't touch their paperwork

they often died before they got any

benefits at all

mayor koch finally decided that

something needed to be done he started a

very little program and i have to say we

probably broke every rule in the book

in order to get people what they needed

so i went over like a good paceworker

and i fell in love with him i mean he

was an amazing person i could certainly

ease a lot of his fears he couldn't

believe that he wouldn't lose his

apartment and he'd have some kind of

income

they're

happy easter eggs this is peter

cottontail

this is the ex peter cottontail

are you there

hello

was prone to great depression i mean he

never took a photo after his diagnosis

he gave it up entirely

[Music]

a couple times i did confront him

because i thought he was stuck

and that was the only time i allowed

myself to confront him when i thought

that he was just shutting down

and so full of rage

and not strong enough to express it

[Music]

i remember him threatening to throw

himself in front of a car because he was

mad and he didn't have the strength to

walk to the curb and throw himself in

front of the car

he talked about killing himself

endlessly brutally i want to go to that

building across the street and jump off

the roof and he'd say i'm going to do it

i'm gonna do it and he would say it

every day until one day we gave him a

number of a doctor he would give

medicine to kill himself and once i gave

him the number he tucked it away and

never spoke about killing himself again

david had like a huge career then when i

did the four elements we didn't sell a

thing it was over

art world is very fickle like that

once you start getting a certain amount

to something you have to keep it going

or it fizzles out

i had this naive sense that once people

supported work then

it doesn't just disappear that you know

that they'll watch what you do and

they'll take interest and they'll follow

it which isn't the case at all

it was the end of the east village scene

and

so-called east village art had just gone

out of style

hi there's the two jar i want to waited

a horse pistol to stay there for a while

i guess you can find my number by

calling the greeny hospital

goodbye

he lost weight

he had the beginnings of dementia

he just was kind of fading away

sitting in his hospital room so high up

in the upper reaches of the building and

leaning against the glass of the window

of his room i can see dizzily down into

the street

it's a gradual turn of the earth outside

the windows

i wonder what it is to fall such

distances

i'm afraid he's really dying

and he barely opens his eyes for more

than a few seconds

and his breath was coming in rapid fire

bursts like a machine gun

i turned from the silence in the window

and looked at him and an iris appears

beneath one half lifted eyelid

and strength pours right through me

and i turn away almost embarrassed

having as much life in me as he has

it was thanksgiving and i met david in

peter's room at the hospital

ethel eichelberger was there and

peter was in a coma i mean he really

wasn't responsive in any kind of way

we're all sitting there and ethel

says very quietly he's not breathing

anymore his chest isn't going up and

down

we called the nurse in

and the nurse said yes he had passed

and then david says could you all leave

me alone with him

if i could attach our blood vessels so

that we would become each other i would

if i could attach our blood vessels

in order to anchor you to the earth to

this present time

to me i would

it makes me weep to feel the history of

you

of your flesh beneath my hands

in a time of so much loss

it makes me weep

all these moments will be lost in time

like tears and rain

smell the flowers while you can

when peter died

i went out to dinner with anita and this

nurse he was talking about sometimes you

could tell somebody was infected because

they'd get a string of pearls along your

neck

which was glands it would swell up

so while i'm sitting there i run the

fingers down my neck and sure enough i

have a string of pearls swollen glands

i decided to get tested

came back positive

i had

pretty good t-cell at that point i

wasn't sick or anything

david he was very sympathetic and very

supportive but then at some point i said

you know you're being very supportive

but you don't know your status

the first time i saw david david had

markers of infection

oral candidized his thrush he didn't

have a competent immune system i don't

think this came as a shock to david

i just woke up

waking up every hour

or last

three four hours

so i was diagnosed with ark

sometime in the summer

now near the end of november

of living in peter's house peter hujar

as i couldn't afford to the other

apartment that i had

[Music]

david came back positive but his t-cells

were really ravaged

david asked dr friedman do i have so few

that i can name them

back then the magic number was 200 t

cells

if you could keep the patient at 200 t

cells or higher there'd be less

opportunistic infections

he had less than 100 when he was tested

so he was already in bad shape

peter hi

peter oh my god i'm looking at the name

what a

unbelievable

psychological slur this is gracie

calling for david

he came into the gallery and told us he

was very quiet about it i mean he came

in and he said that he'd just been

tested and he found out that he had

it was devastating for me i mean i felt

very protective of david

when keith herring came out about having

aids it just seemed like everybody had

to run buy something of his because he

was going to die of aids he had aids and

he was going to die it was so gross how

keith was treated and how everything

around him what that was all about and i

didn't want that for david i mean i knew

how private david was and so when he

told me my first reaction

was that we shouldn't tell anyone

which of course is the wrong response to

have with david that's when i

picked up the phone and called barry

blenderman and said you have to do this

retrospective now

like now

she was right in that this is what i do

books and retrospectives and i was an

avid fan of his work

i bought the painting you

back in 1984 there was an urgency

to do the show while he was alive

i wrote a grant to the nea got the grant

worth 15 000

and started working with david planning

the exhibition in the catalog

[Music]

i thought the phrase tongues of flame

was very appropriate it's a biblical

reference it's a reference to a play

it's a reference to a silent movie but

mostly tongues of flame i'm thinking

what an amazing orator he was i was

thinking about the burning child i was

thinking about the burning house the

incendiary aspect of it the passion

and it just seemed like everything that

was connected with david

was on fire

one of the things that happened after my

diagnosis is this thing of this may be

the last work i do so it's like trying

to focus everything and channel it into

the square or into this photograph or

into this thing that

it's all got to go in

all the anger all the emotions all the

thoughts

i'm working on a series of sex images

that take environments like the sky

the ocean

an airplane

train movements

a forest

and a superimposed

a circle that has

a very explicit sex act and most of them

are homosexual acts

[Music]

outside of the sex series a place sees

circular images

inside the field of painting and so for

me the circles are like cells and they

contain information

and i see them as microscopic

views so it's like looking into the

interior of something

like looking at a spot of blood and

seeing the cells

i also see them as telescopic views so

that you can be looking through a

telescope

and then that says something to me about

surveillance seeing something from a

distance i like the suggestions of all

those things

it's about discovery

and i use dreams in my work dreams are

very important to me i usually write

them down all the time the dreams are an

example of how the imagination can break

all boundaries

his iconography is based off this

profound sense he had that he could try

to look at the universe

everything organic

and everything man-made

all the delights and all the horrors and

trying to put them together

but every aspect of it would be deeply

personal

when peter died david took photographs

of the head

the hands and the feet there's a

tradition of

taking death mask of someone important

hands are important because they're how

you physically interact with the world

and then the feet i think are very

important

and that goes back to the old testament

and the new testament how do you greet

people you wash their hands but it's

more important you wash their feet

because that's what's anchoring you to

the world

you find that all the way through

classic spiritual literature

that iconic laying out of those images

incorporating them into peter who's are

dead with that text is really a call to

arms

i was diagnosed with ark recently and

this was after the last few years of

lose encounter the friends and neighbors

who've been dying slow vicious

unnecessary deaths because and

dikes and junkies are expendable in this

country and at the moment at the moment

i'm a 37 foot tall 1

172 pound man inside this six foot body

and all i can feel is the pressure all i

can feel is the pressure and the need

for relief

it's bad it's been too long and i want

you to know that i think of you and i

love you a lot and i hope all as well

last night i talked to my sister for the

first time in

seven months i think

told her about my diagnosis and

that was rough for me anyway i thought

she handled it pretty well

but then who knows

remember pat once saying to me you'll

never get age or something like that

because

i'm not one of those people that run

around have sex with everybody

family writing corrector

[Music]

okay

all right

after he had aids we were fine but there

came that day when i called him on the

phone when i told him our aunt helen was

coming to visit boy that sent him off

look if it comes up whether about my

girlfriend or if you have girlfriends

i'm going to tell them i'm homosexual

and if it comes up i'll tell them that i

have this virus

if it goes far enough i'll

confront him and ask him why the

they let the psychotic do this damage to

us all these years and not do a

thing about it and like talk

about their god and all this other

when they watch this guy what he did to

it i'm tired of living these lies with

these people and i'm tired of hiding

from these people because i'm afraid of

who i am or because i have problems with

who i am and i'm not going to go through

it anymore this is not the place i said

if you want to confront aunt helen

then go to detroit and confront her

but you're not coming here he went into

a rage that frightened me don't insult

me by inviting me to come after the

relatives leave that's right out of

sight okay get the out of our sight

until it's comfortable until we can deal

with you sitting here with your

homosexuality with your aides

yeah right sorry for myself i'm the one

who's dying

i'm the one who's got to

confront things before i go and that's

what i want to do i want to clear the

fear out of my head it was so painful to

me

the way that he and i interacted if i

could do it all over again i i try to do

it a little differently so are you

afraid to tell your children i have aids

and then he started saying oh your kids

know that you have a for a

brother that's not what i said i said

are you afraid to tell your kids i have

aids i said david they're young one's

three years old the other one's six it's

too messy for me to be in your

life so save it save it steven i don't

need this from you i don't need this

kind of insult i faces every day

and i don't need it from quote-unquote

family do you understand well it's a

conversation i'm steve we never see each

other again goodbye

and then i never saw him again

i was feeling pretty crazy recently

a lot of anxiety

at some point i realized i was just

afraid of dying

throughout all my life i've tried to

maintain some kind of complete control

of myself from where i've come from

all the scenes as kid hustling and all

the scenes in the streets and times i

came close to death in the times of a

nearly star

maybe need for self-control is to mask

this enormous rage

that a carrier may carry from all those

experiences

i guess i fear lost control that that

rage will spill and become

indiscriminate in terms of what it

attacks but really and truly i think i'm

afraid of losing my mind at some point

to some degenerative disease like

meningitis or seizures or whatever

don't want to

lose touch with words i want to be able

to provoke

some change in whatever limited fashion

in people in a person and i always had

this fantasy that if i were to ever

become ill and if i were to become so

weak that i couldn't leave the house

which is another fear for me

or at least be able to tap that

keyboard even if it's with a pencil held

between my teeth touching each key

letter for ladder

despite rage despite illness despite

pain i hope that my mind

continues

aids was revealing exactly what society

was about but was already there in his

work he knew already what the world was

about he knew the structure that

sustained power he knew the manipulation

of people who would like to live

differently so the illness became a

weapon against the politics of this

society when i was diagnosed with this

virus it didn't take me long to realize

i'd contracted a diseased society as

well

[Music]

thousands of demonstrators demand that

new york city do more to help those

suffering from aids

the scene evoked memories of the 60s

civil rights of civil war david and i

went to act up meetings

we marched with act up

[Applause]

on some level the most interesting thing

that they have is information of what

was happening in the hospitals

they were strapping minority babies to

beds and giving

half of them placebos

basically they're stealing these babies

from their parents

saying this is the only way your baby

can get treatment

sign this form

killing half of them purposefully with

placebos

that alone i thought was so outrageous

and all these information packages were

given to the media

i thought well jesus this will change

everything i mean how naive i was

[Applause]

[Music]

we went down to washington we knocked up

demonstrated with the fda

hundreds of angry demonstrators

effectively shut down the fda today

[Music]

[Applause]

[Music]

[Applause]

[Music]

demonstrators say the aids crisis and

the anger over it continue to grow every

day charging that the government

responds to the aids disease is woefully

inadequate they say the demonstrations

will continue

our group made these tombstones and then

laid down like we were dying

[Music]

so they arrested us

but it got headlines

photographs of the tombstones came up

many times

civil rights or civil war david got

arrested a couple more times

for my own taste i wish they would get a

little bit more violent express it a

little stronger

it's one of the few things that people

will respond to i'm waking up more and

more from daydreams of tip and amazonian

blow darts and infected blood and

spitting them at the exposed necklines

of certain politicians i'm not going to

be polite and these people that

want me to be courageous

you know i resent that oh how great he

was how courageous he was

all the way up to the end

there's no expression in that other than

silence

somebody once said to me that if you

spit a

piece on the sidewalk

it's nothing but if ten people or a

hundred people or a thousand people spit

their gum onto the same sidewalk people

have to deal with it they become stuck

in it when they walk through it

and i see that as part of a relationship

with art

when people put themselves on the line

in their work whether it's music writing

photography painting or whatever in

terms of culture with capital c they

apply a tiny amount of pressure

against the system

of control

that would willingly jump into fascism

if there wasn't enough pressure

on its throat

we are born into a pre-invented

existence within a tribal nation of

zombies

the government has a day-to-day job

maintaining an illusion of a one tribe

nation and inside that one tribe nation

there's actually

millions of tribes historically

minorities have always been expendable

in this country

historically art was made by certain

what i make in my work is a record of

things

that challenges

the record that we're given daily

whether through the newspapers

to the television or through the

[Music]

i were a violent politicians

i would go into the nation's capital and

start annihilating the people that i

believe responsible for this

pre-invented existence but the

originators are long dead

the way things are set in motion in

terms of society it's like a machine

that runs itself that can't stop it can

run by itself think by itself police

enforce its schools

raise all glory while we do it to him

again

[Applause]

cardinal connor has helped tens of

thousands of people to their unnecessary

deaths through the denial of pertinent

safe sex information he obviously

prefers coffins to condoms

this is jesus christ i am in front of st

patrick's cathedral on sunday we're here

reporting on a major aids activist and

abortion rights activist demonstration

inside cardinal o'connor is busy

spreading his lies and rumors about the

position of lesbians and gays they act

as if because there's this abstract idea

of what religion is of what god is that

this man is untouchable and he's not and

this church can be shut down the same

way he shuts down abortion clinics the

same way he prevents people getting

information or making personal decisions

about their life he can be shut down

there's a green light on the green

light's not on but let's see we had a

green light yeah so it's rolling yeah

east germany today took down the berlin

wall back at that time david had a big

body of work and it was really strong

stuff but

his career kind of flattened out

the publicity from his contribution to

the catalog for witnesses against our

vanishing and artist space was what

brought him to the national stage

and it wasn't for an artwork it was for

an essay but he wrote in the catalog i

i wouldn't say derogatory no i don't

think i'm i'm being that critical i

asked david to write for the catalog

there aren't such intense people in the

world anymore he was a genius which i

don't

use for anyone else i can think of

david's essay was talking about

how the imagination was the last

frontier

for creative freedom

[Music]

that in his imagination he can douse

jesse helms with gasoline and set his

putrid ass on fire i quote or throw

william danimeyer off the empire state

building

and made a reference to cardinal

o'connor

total enemy of the state called him that

fat cannibal in skirts

in the house of walking swastikas

now this didn't play well

with the establishment

tonight a manhattan art exhibit about

aids is losing a lot of federal money

because of what will be shown in the

exhibit the chairman of the nea states

we find that a large portion of the

content is political rather than

artistic in nature is the fact that i

may be dying of aids in 1989 is that not

political is the fact that i don't have

health insurance and i don't have access

to adequate health care is that not

political

and i you know i think that says it

clearly this is washington and helms was

on a rampage he'd already racked up

maple thorpe got in the corcoran to

cancel their show he'd already racked up

piss christ i mean this was the time

and they were looking for the trifecta

the third thing then david vonnerow

which was perfect for this this senator

is unwilling to spend one penny i'm

saddened to see that

congress might not feel that this show

should be

supported by the american taxpayer is

this about homophobia or what is it

about i i'm confused by it what are you

thinking about

i know i just said you know what

happened talking to this journalist from

the time you know he said that the nea

is claiming that what i said was

horrible monstrous you know inflammatory

this that the most terrible things that

they can't even repeat them and i said

look a study done on violence in america

found that there was increasing numbers

of homosexual teenagers that were

murdered or beaten up and that dynamite

tried to suppress that part of the study

because it contained the word homosexual

therefore william danimeyer condones the

murder and terrorizing of homosexual

teenagers and no gesture i can make it

even approximate the violence of what

these people have done i'm not gonna sit

still and be silent about it

how heroic

to the barricades

[Music]

[Music]

well what's happening now

the susan called up and it turns out

that uh the nea approached susan and now

they're doing a joint press conference

issuing statements and susan does this

paltry liberal stance of

here i think there are certain issues

that are not resolved here and i said

what the are you doing i said these

have themselves against the

wall over all these issues over

homophobia legislated silence of

homosexuals and lesbians in this country

what you're doing is you're avoiding the

whole thing for your funding and

i said you're a collaborator you and

your board and it's indicative of the

whole art world

david was

more skeptical and more negative about

the art world than he was about jesse

helms because he thought that curators

of the art world hid art with queer

ideas

and just anything that was out of the

white one tribe nation as he said was

being censored by the museums you didn't

need jesse helms and people like that

because the museums were already doing

the job for you

okay thanks

okay

okay

what happened

she's crying

she said she's gonna say in her

statement that

this is the failure of the government to

confront homophobia

in this society it's a legislation it's

a silence of homosexuals

and it's the failure to provide safe sex

information to people with aids

so they can make informed decisions

did she say that to the press

this is her statement she's and that

she's gonna

thank me uh from the bottom of her heart

for what she's learned

i feel you know i feel pretty emotional

about it

oh man

[Music]

this show does contain 10 years of work

starting with david's pearly street

stencil pieces to work that was just

made yesterday especially for this

gallery so without further ado i'd like

to introduce david monrovich

thanks a lot for coming tonight

i don't think anybody expected a crafter

it's kind of strange and emotional for

me to be standing in a room filled with

artifacts of my life

each painting photograph and sculpture

has built into it a particular frame of

mind that only i can know given that

i've always felt alien in this country

we call america

if i say i'm homosexual is that

something new to you does that make you

nervous

do you think it would be a crime if the

denial of information only killed people

that you didn't feel comfortable with do

you stop to get to know the person you

sit or walk next to in this school do

you make it comfortable for that person

to express ideas that might change your

ideas and i wake up every morning i wake

up every morning this killer machine

call america and i'm carrying this rage

like a blood-filled egg as each t-cell

disappears from my body it's replaced by

10 pounds of pressure 10 pounds of rage

and i focus my range into non-violent

resistance but the focus is starting to

slip and the egg is starting to crack

david became the local hero in a town

that needed a voice like this so badly

when i first went out there i knew that

it was like a fairly conservative town i

mean i had fantasies of people with

pitchforks storming the gallery

[Music]

in the days that followed people would

come running over to talk to me when

they spotted me

it was an extremely emotional positive

response

i should probably tell you how the

controversy happened

about a month into the show

there was one page in the book it was a

black and white homage to jean-janae who

was one of david's heroes

i didn't know it was in color

he just gave us the black and white and

we put it in the book

john janae has a plate over his head

that looks like a halo

there's angels and tommy guns and in the

right hand corner there's a picture of

jesus christ

with a hypodermic in his arm

[Music]

didn't make no never mind to me but

one of the people that got a hold of the

book was dana rohrbacher the right wing

politician from orange county california

[Music]

rohrabacher

put together a screed

with a xerox image of christ with the

injectable talking about

do you know what your nea money's going

for

fifteen thousand went to a show

that has anal and oral homosexual sex is

like a circus this exhibition tongues of

flame is an orgy of degenerate depravity

[Music]

then i started getting letters and

threats

from people to the university

saying we here you have this exhibition

that is morally unacceptable

people would come to the show

[Music]

and i'd end up having contests with them

about who could quote the bible better

me or them

try and explain to them that jesus was

the man of sorrows and he was here to

cleanses of our sins and if that meant

taking on the pain of a junkie then

that's what christ would have to do

[Music]

then all of a sudden i get a copy of a

two-page pamphlet that has excerpts of

david's greatest hit from donald wildman

and the american family association

donald wildman got pepsi to stop using

madonna as a spokesperson because of

cones that she was wearing and she was

being anti-religious

and evidently that had been sent to

thousands of churchgoers

and

any senator or congressman who hadn't

gotten it from rohrabacher

i sent that to david and i said

look at this

and that's when this has abandoned

[Music]

coming up

explains why he's suing a group that's

trying to cut off government funding of

the arts donald wildman went through a

catalog

went through it with a pair of scissors

he searched out what he perceived to be

tiny details of paintings or photographs

that involved the portrayal of sexual

activity

sometimes using less than two percent of

a single painting

he represented these mutilated fragments

as my work

this week voynirovich took wildman to

court for violating his copyright and

distorting his work by taking it out of

context

what i remember

was

the whole courtroom completely full of

artists and friends of david and

reverend wildman sitting there like he

was in a hell like in his mind in the

most awful place that the lord could

have possibly put him there was full of

sinners and sodomites and blasphemers

all around him and people dressed in

black and everyone's dressed in black

and he looked tortured

[Music]

this is something that i argued with

david about

numerous times and david was sick i said

to him

you don't have this time to waste

you're not going to change their minds

they don't have minds the so-called

ideas of these people like wildman

they're not ideas they're aspects of

bigotry

they're always people like this

sometimes they're more powerful than

others that was a moment of power for

those kind of churches and those kind of

people we're in one now again but in

between they lost power and in the end

they never have the power of an artist

david one of which is more valuable than

every one of these preachers that ever

lived as a person and as what he put

into the world

david was being cast as that angry young

man who was just screaming all the time

and people

had told him that he was not a good

painter

so he was challenging himself to make

beautiful paintings of flowers

but within that of course he put his

writing

and he did it in a way that melded with

the pictures

but as you read the works you realize he

was telling stories of death and

politics

i mean it's just really sad beautiful

show

i wonder what this little bug does in

the world what his job is

and

[Music]

if this little bug dies if the world

feels it

i mean does the earth feel it does the

world get a little lighter in the

rotation there's another one

[Music]

so you think they're married

or are they homosexuals on vacation

david was hiv positive in 88.

i went to new york a lot a lot of time

to work with him until 1991 i mean for

me he wasn't sick

you couldn't see

on his face on his body he was sick

until the last trip we did there's one

moment where i felt this virus

took his mind

may 1991 we did this trip in the

southwest

we were in death valley driving and i

said to david let's stop here i would

like to take photos

david said look i'm not really feeling

good i stay in the car go and i just

want to stay here

i don't know maybe i left a half hour

then i came back to the car and david

was laying down with the seat down

he was like

white completely white

i said david and he didn't answer to me

he wasn't sleeping his eyes were open

and then he looked at me

and he wasn't there

he was somewhere i don't know where

i started getting scared i touched his

face saying david david

david david and he came back slowly to

consciousness

and then he started laughing like

nothing happened like he was nowhere

that it has been here

that's the moment i felt that

something was shifting in his mind

[Music]

actually i

i

you know my memory

seems to come and go i forget so many

things these days where it just seems

huge blocks of time are suddenly gone

and then david they come back

the same trip david took his camera and

he said i would like you to take a photo

of me like if i was buried

so we silently start digging

and i cover him with sand and earth

took different photos i took photos from

behind

it was very strong

very strong

and that was the last trip we did

together

we never met again we spoke over the

phone but we never met again

[Music]

i guess it was about september of

91. he called me in the middle of the

night

probably around two in the morning

he said that he had a fever and he was

shaking and so i came over

i put him under a quilt and he was just

really shivering like he couldn't stop

and that was the beginning of it that

was the start of it

from then on things started to slowly

but surely go downhill

he was hospitalized for eight to ten

days

they did tests

with anyone home

and literally from then on he was never

really much out of bed

hi david penny arcade i have a friend

who's on the board of directors for the

museum of modern art he's interested in

getting peter into the museum call me so

i can talk to you okay

[Music]

[Music]

when you two did a concert out at the

meadowlands in new jersey they sent a

limousine for us and before the concert

we met with them bona wanted to know if

we wanted to pray with them we said no i

think we'll pass on that thank you you

know

but it was just so special i mean he was

thrilled he was really truly filled

hi david it's kiki

said that you went back in the hospital

so i hope you're okay

he was in and out of cabrini a number of

times and after one of them he said i'm

never going back again

home care was established in that loft

of the movie theater for him

that became a hospital room and most

patients didn't have that at that time

david was one of the first people to

have that level of home care and

probably that was the force of his

personality and tom's organization

skills

if not for tom that wouldn't have

happened

[Music]

david

dave

hello

spat

i just want to let you know i talked to

tom

and i told him when i'm coming in

i'm worried about you

i just hope that you have someone around

you and uh

well i'll talk to you tomorrow okay

big kiss bye-bye

his decline was speeding up dementia was

setting in

it was in and out it was getting more

and more difficult and he was more and

more tired

things were happening for david and you

could tell david mama had just bought

fire and he would just feel like that's

wonderful

and you could tell him five minutes

later and he would not remember it was a

groundhog day you could just absolutely

tell them the same thing over and he had

absolute happiness

it was a very beautiful wide-eyed david

it wasn't like it wasn't him but he was

joyous

[Music]

dr bob said real person comes out when

they get into dementia if they're nasty

at core they'll be nasty but david was

as sweet as he could be

it was heartbreaking for me

he didn't think anybody would stick

around if he got sick or he was dying he

was very much afraid of that and i think

as a result of how badly he was treated

as a kid you know there was a tremendous

sadness and fear for me worrying about

him and knowing he was just getting

worse and worse

but at the same time i felt grateful

that i could be there for him

looking out the windows i can place

myself somewhere out in that sky

lie down in that texture and dream of

years and years of sleep

and i

and i talk

and i talk inside my head of change no

peace for this body beside me

smell the flowers while you can't yeah

july 22nd

he died at the apartment and there were

like

12 of us there all of his friends his

sister

the nurse said to tom i think he's gone

and um

that was it

it's no one thing mr david's life it was

the burden of carrying all those

illnesses and that one body that was

just too much for one body to bear

there were a lot of tears during that

time there were a lot of tears then but

i've gained a great deal of distance now

of course and you know in some ways it's

even hard to remember him which i don't

like

it's what time does to you

but he's always here you know he's

always here no matter what i know he's

here

[Music]

so

[Music]

[Music]

so

[Music]

oh my god here we are

i said i wasn't going to cry and i'm

already tearing up

it's been so long coming

here it is

it's a little overwhelming isn't it wow

[Music]

look at all of this

all the peter hujar dreaming

peter was quite an extraordinary

character and they were so connected

yeah

anita there's your monkey there's your

monkey yes it is

david painted it for peter and it was

over his bed while he was sick yes and

when he died they he gave it to anita

kept it for 20 years yeah and i'm so

sorry i needed to sell it

if i could buy it back from that woman i

would

peter would always say that the monkey

was carrying the weight of the world on

his shoulders the way david did it

this has always been a favorite when i

first saw it it really kind of moved me

a lot

at that point david was not feeling very

well and i just kept thinking of

extinction in boinerobich he's so clever

he really was he had such a great

childish imagination

the imagination

the is of countries we can break through

existing structures of government

the work

that anybody does as an artist if it

doesn't reflect resistance

[Music]

so today in studio we have chris mckim

the director

of boynirovich you

thanks for uh making the trek to

brooklyn chris thank you thanks so much

for having me what was the inspiration

behind this film it all started july

2017 and at that point we were like six

months into trump's administration and i

was losing my mind as everyone else was

and i was trying to figure out what my

next project was and i was sort of

trying to find sort of archival

type projects the aids sort of crisis

was was also sort of one of the the

areas that i was sort of researching and

trying to find somebody that might lend

itself something that might lend itself

to a documentary and that's when i

stumbled across david now i was aware of

david i knew some of his work but i

didn't know a lot about him i very

quickly went down this wormhole one you

know friday afternoon and i realized

that there was all this story behind him

and all this amazing work and all this

writing um and also there it was about a

year before the whitney retrospective so

i also saw that was coming up and there

had never been a documentary about him

at that point uh so i reached out to his

estate through pbow the gallery that uh

managed him when he was still alive

um and things just rolled from there

it's just daunting to me the idea of

making a film based on like like this

you know we we make documentary films

here but not based on this like troll

barca you make it look effortless in a

way when it's done

but it had to have been a very

challenging process i imagine yes did

you ever get lost in the the weeds like

what am i

what story am i telling you no uh not

not

the story part was was not

um was not the difficult part i mean you

know no more difficult than it always is

but we really starting with the audio it

i i would cut little pods um and you can

kind of feel it in the film it is that

kind of rollercoaster of sections

throwing on some images just ideas of

stuff and there's almost no sync video

in the film you know there there's the

scene in david's apartment at the

beginning and end

and then some of his band footage but

otherwise it was just all piece mode and

the really the difficult part handing

over these chunks and sort of reviewing

stuff with dave the editor you know

there's it's one thing to show somebody

a string out of material with talking

head interviews and some other footage

because you can you can you're watching

the same reactions you're seeing

the the in addition to hearing

personalities come out through the

interviews really seeing it so you don't

really think about how much you're

taking from the audio but when you're

watching something that might not even

have any images on it yet i really you

know you kind of realize that you're not

necessarily seeing the same things

because it's all it you know up to the

mind's eye

um and so that became a very the first

few weeks were really hairy for me

because i knew what i wanted the film to

be but i didn't know i didn't didn't no

you know i think what we ended up doing

was a great representation of what i was

hoping for but that would be hard to

describe or know that that we could

actually do it um and in the first few

weeks i just i i didn't know if it was

going to happen as we were started

editing and i really panicked i would

imagine that you needed a real partner

in making this film and you're in so far

as you're extremely talented editor yes

yes understood the vision and how to do

it yeah and and you know post has always

been the biggest part of it for me even

on those the other projects which rely

so much on production production to me

was always about like getting things to

bring back to what i call like the

sandbox of the editing bay um to play

with and you know

there's all sorts of responsibilities

and being true to the subjects and you

know not doing no harm and all that

stuff but it in telling a story that

people relate to but at the end of the

day it's always to me about like finding

things that that speak you know speak to

me or speak to us and that's kind of how

it all

you know i wake up every morning this

killer machine call america and i'm

carrying this rage like a blood-filled

egg as each t-cell disappears from my

body it's replaced by 10 pounds of

pressure 10 pounds of rage and i focus i

range into non-violent resistance but

the focus is starting to slip and the

egg is starting to crack

thank you you approached this with

an approach and purpose

and experience in making films like this

on some level with the rock film and

then

also a strategy

and you were able to make this film in a

pretty efficient way it feels like

otherwise you watch the film you're like

well if you had said so 12 years ago i

started working on this film it wouldn't

have surprised me you know well you know

i think that's

that's the benefit of the tv experience

you know like it was the show running

around the first four seasons of drag

race so you know when when you're

starting a show and then

over the course of say one year you you

know you might go from nothing to to

shooting and editing and getting on the

air 14 episodes like that's a very tight

confined

schedule and and i will say that like

the idea of

entertaining ourselves in the edit bay

and when i say that it's it's it's

putting things together in a way that

that means something to us and you know

entertaining can be devastating you know

it doesn't have to be cheerful but it's

just whatever moves us and i use

entertaining as sort of a catch-all but

i think if things pop

to you know pop to me or like you know i

kind of trust that and having a scene or

a moment and being able to cram in

all the emotion you know it might be

both sad and funny and heartfelt or

whatever and

i think all of that previous experience

is very helpful a man whose principles

have been familiar to americans for 30

years a man whose accomplishments make

him the natural choice for president of

the united states we will

make america great again

thank you very much

reagan is the president of this country

now going through a time in my life that

seems desperate surreal awful and

slightly wondrous all simultaneously and

so the

original

kind of impetus

or energy that kind of got you going

this direction was a new administration

the trump administration being in and

you being

feeling how exactly well just helpless

and angry you know and i just helpless

and angry helpless and angry and i also

you know these projects take so much out

of you and you know you invest so much

of my time and you know our time in them

um and you want them to mean something

and

you know david

you know not to the degree that i came

to realize but david just very quickly

seemed like there would be things that

spoke to the you know what was going on

and make me feel like i was actually

doing something proactive even if it

wasn't quite so in the moment

um my hope was that it would be

meaningful in some way and and the

deeper i got into you know

his journals and the audio that he left

behind it just you know he turned out to

be sort of like a perfect foil because

so much of what he

addressed and talked about in the 80s

you know of course is still a problem

the government has a day-to-day job

maintaining an illusion of a one tribe

nation and inside of that one tribe

nation there's actually

millions of tribes historically

minorities have always been expendable

in this country

what is the parallel that you see from

the aids epidemic in the 80s to the

kind of

you know

political climate and pandemic that

we've lived through over the last 18

months well you know david was political

throughout his life even like before the

aids crisis and as he was coming into

his own as an artist

um there were a lot of social issues

that um

brought drew his attention and a lot of

his work is based on this idea that you

know what he called america's one tried

nation mentality in our pre-invented

existence

trump was not the only indication i mean

it had never gone away these issues and

the power struggle and the way

uh you know politicians and anyone in

power sort of manipulate the masses to

to try to stay in power and

um of course we know it's you know and

as david says in the film you know

minorities in this country are just

disposable

whether they're black or brown or gay or

you know as david says junkies you know

whatever it might be and you know that

that so much of that seemed to really

speak to what was going on and as i was

listening to david's tapes and and going

through the material i was always kind

of trying to listen for things that felt

like they could have been from today is

the fact that i may be dying of aids in

1989 is that not political is the fact

that i don't have health insurance and i

don't have access to adequate health

care is that not political there's so

many little parallels like that he talks

about drug testing um the age drug

testing before there were any cocktails

or anything and how you know they were

testing on minority children and the way

they were sort of conning parents into

doing this and giving children placebos

the way he describes in the film is like

they were taking these kids from

their parents which at the time we were

doing that was in the middle of you know

all of that stuff going on with at the

border and families being separated

um so it just felt you know really

ripped from the headlines of the moment

they were strapping minority babies to

beds and giving

half of them placebos

basically they're stealing these babies

from their parents

saying this is the only way your baby

can get treatment

sawing this form

killing half of them purposefully with

placebos

the amount of

archival

that you had to go through explain the

process you know you you

got in touch with the

the the kind of agents that represented

his estate said you wanted to make a

film

and then did they just give you this

like well here's a treasure trove of

everything he recorded everything did

you know going into it i had some idea

that there was stuff i didn't know that

it was going to be as amazing as it was

all of david's archive was being kept at

fails library at nyu they have sort of a

downtown collection of

various archives but they've really made

david's um

kind of a centerpiece

in terms of how they've cataloged it and

made elements public with the estate on

board we had access to everything um and

so i went to nyu probably over those

couple years i spent maybe four or five

weeks total um

going through pages and pages and just

photographing things on my phone

there were probably about 200 audio

cassettes and so they sent me

everything that had already been

digitized and each audio file

represented like one half of an audio

tape so it was like 30 to 45 minutes and

those were his tape journals and and the

answering machine tapes conversations he

had with friends that just street sounds

he recorded walking around times square

a mixtape he made in paris which ended

up

being used for three teen skill 4 music

all sorts of things and you know once

once i got that stuff i just sort of as

that was coming and i loaded the audio

files onto my iphone and just walked

around and listened to his tapes and

sort of you know became acquainted with

david sort of started my relationship

with david because it became very

personal i remember one of the most

emotional experiences was one day being

picked up by this guy who was very

creepy

and i remember blind on this dirty bed

that was one of these cheap hotels and

this guy sucking my dick his mouth was

sticky and that he would kiss my leg and

there would be like this gummy

kind of stuff on my leg and it was all

the stuff that i was really repulsed by

and not enough to not have a heart on i

remember feeling all this incredible

emotion for this guy i just felt so sad

for him at some point like reached under

his arms and pulled them up to me and

kissed him on the mouth which is the

thing that i least wanted to do

he started weeping and just said

nobody's ever done that and ended up

giving me extra money and whatever which

i was quite happy with what was it like

going through

this deeply

personal archive it's almost like having

you know someone's cell phone password

and you can access their most personal

thoughts and feelings i mean it was it

was amazing and you know the earliest

tape is is from when he was 21 and he

was going cross-country with a friend

and there was a sort of a substantial

chunk because he would record them off

and on over the years and the busier he

got with his art the less he did the

tape journals but there was sort of a

big chunk from 1981 which

i think actually represents probably a

healthy amount of what we ended up using

in the film and so much of what was on

those tapes sounded really relatable i

think to anyone who is trying to find

their way in the world whether they're

an artist or not he was like 26 at the

time um but also as an artist wondering

if what he was doing you know had any

value if he was any good if it mattered

in the world and so much of the things

he was discussing

you know spoke to why i wanted to do you

know why what i was looking for when i

found sort of this as a documentary

topic i've been filled with this sense

of

of

anxiousness and the fact that i'm 26 and

thinking about myself and my values my

actions and thinking about the effect of

people on people wondering if any of

it's

meaningful if it's futile

trying to figure out what it is that my

life is and where i've been going little

gems like that i think it's it's what

people really ended up relating to in

the film because

you know david was a scary person and

even if people weren't aware of him and

what little they have heard about him

over the years whatever rage he carried

has become sort of the brand which was a

big part of it but he was also you know

sort of an intimate sincere and funny

person and all these things

and so much of that came out through the

tapes and i'm wandering around tell me

more about the tapes specifically the

answering machine tapes um well the you

know the answering machine tapes were

another

surprise find hours and hours and hours

of these answering machine tapes you

know peter hujar who is so important in

david's life and such a big part of the

story

is only in the film through those

answering machine tapes and so much of

their relationship and the that their

interaction comes just from the

giddiness and the goofiness that um

you know peter puts in there and and to

be able to kind of bring him to life

through those words really unexpected

and

a blessing

this is huge arena again

i was wondering if david's steam

vegetable was there

this is peter

fast juice

and the same with uh

david's sister pat who passed away

a few years ago um and i i did not get

to interview

and she's on the answering machine tapes

and again like just these little

snippets i think you can you can hear

their relationship it's very personal

it's almost in some ways more almost

more personal than what's not i mean

david puts a lot out there in the those

tape journals but some of it is as

personal because again

sometimes it's just the tone of their

voice in the end when she calls

and it's near the end of his life and

and

she's saying that you know he she's

coming to town but you know she hopes he

has you know someone around him and you

can hear that it you know she that she's

getting emotional on the other end and

it's a subtle thing but it's there

i just want to let you know i talked to

tom

and i told him when i'm coming in

i'm worried about you

i just hope that you have someone around

you and uh

well i'll talk to you tomorrow okay

big kiss bye-bye

i will say that one of the things i love

you know david is such a very disruptive

um

you know a lot of the work is very

aggressive in in various ways and you

know there's that moment in the film

where david's reading the text on the

painting that features his photographs

of peter hujar after he'd passed away

and david's reading this text and

shouting it and as that's going on you

know we have this little low beep and

you hear this like david

david

and you know and then this like david at

the moment i'm a 37 foot tall 1

172 pound man inside this six foot body

and all i can feel is the pressure all i

can feel is the pressure and the knee

for relief

and it's she's trying to see if he's

going to answer the phone but it's like

this loud moment and this soft little

voice is suddenly disrupting in the film

the answering machine tapes were great

transitions because we realized that

anytime we kind of

wanted to move on to the next thing but

didn't really have a way in we could

just throw in a phone call and it's like

a natural break that people understand

you know they're they're used to their

lives

sort of being interrupted by a cop that

also provides more context and

layers to the story as well yeah yeah i

hate to put a label on him but he's just

he's so punk

buenorovich you know it's just like the

political nature of his work the

but he didn't

when the art world started embracing him

his reaction to that was not like okay

now this is my opportunity to

to cash in and sell out

he seemed very very authentic and

consistent in his ideals and beliefs and

his conviction of them yeah you know he

certainly at you know 85 became this

really big year he was in the whitney

biennial and he got this

huge sort of

commission to do this minutian

installation

david didn't really like rich people

so he took all this garbage off of the

street and put it into the installation

right he had had a really hard life up

to that point

always broke

um not the healthiest from from sort of

that like malnourished and struggling on

the street childhood and and things like

that and so suddenly when he had money

to

not have it quite so rough

it it gave him an opportunity to to

consider these things and wonder about

these who were paying for it

you know and that really pissed him off

of course he wanted his work out there

and the whitney biennial

it's a huge showcase for an artist who's

only been painting for two years um but

you know he also didn't like the the

people that it attracted and you know as

he says you know art like history is

made for certain people you know it's

kept for certain people and and what he

did in his work was try to speak to his

own history um and present a different

kind of history you know the stories

less told speak to

how you know we bring down the system by

putting ourselves into our work it does

confront this this idea of a one tribe

nation and it robs

the the people who control the media and

control history in the books

of

being able to say this is the only thing

so towards the end of the film

you have the scene of his funeral

in 1992 and it says his funeral was was

the first political funeral of the aids

era

what does that actually mean

that was something that was brought up

in his biography did cynthia carr who um

had been there at the time that's where

i think the idea came from for me

and certainly i think at that was i

think the first time that people took to

the streets for a particular person who

had passed away from aids and the

protest was really tied to this specific

loss

after that it cert the idea certainly

expanded there were there there were

you know there were corpse you know

there were

dead people in coffins who were paraded

you know in washington and and

i think new york at the time and and

certainly

the idea of a political funeral expanded

and uh became i think a much

sharper weapon i don't need this from

you i don't need this kind of insult i

have faces every day and i don't

need it from quote-unquote family do you

understand well this is a conversation

and steve we never see each other again

goodbye

why do you think he was recording

everything do you think he had an

inkling that one day these tapes would

be heard or was it a form of paranoia or

ego or narcissism you know i think david

did consider that

these audio tapes and journals may be

used at some point and based on on

things he said on the tapes and and his

sort of general attitude about things

along the way i think he was probably

conflicted about that

but he

was also i think very aware you know he

had the model of peter hujar in his life

and his mentorship through all things

and when peter died as fran says in the

film you know there were seven people

that probably could tell you who peter

hujar was and um and the head of his um

state now says you know he was a saint

on avenue a but nobody knew who he was

david

like all of us you know it's like this

conflict of like you you want your work

to be known you want to be attached to

it

there's

a problem with that when it does happen

and it freaks you out or you know even

when when he gained fame

sort of in the mid 80s and and suddenly

as as he was getting attention

it became this new struggle for him and

you know there were things he destroyed

sort of

in in the months and in

um

leading up to his death in few years

pieces and things that he didn't want

out there but he didn't get rid of this

stuff and so i think

he he was aware of i think how how it

might

be you know might be useful for his

legacy um

in what way probably didn't know

um did he feel great about that was he

convinced that was a good thing

i bet not um

but enough to keep it around and to to

to let it exist it seems that the art

world at a certain point embraces david

but did he also make the art world

nervous or scare the art world a little

bit and then he has this controversy

with the nea yeah i mean i think david

did

uh scare the art world for sure um

both in

you know what his art covered but also i

think dealing with him personally so

that that certainly contributed to to to

to you know their feelings about him and

you know with the nea

at the time they had been they had gone

after maple thorpe they had gotten his

show cancelled at the corcoran in

washington

there was the controversy with andre

sereno's piss christ and so when

the witnesses against our vanishing

which was the beginning of his his

troubles with the nea in in sort of

censorship it's interesting that

for this visual artist the issue he was

also a writer and the issue

came from the essay that he had uh in

the book in the in the program for for

the show the catalog and it was his

words and thoughts you know pure on the

page that really caused the issue and

you know initially

caused the nea to pull the grant from

which was only you know fifteen thousand

dollars pulled the grant from from the

the gallery in the show

and then that january was the

retrospective that they had in normal

illinois around his life and and then

that everything kind of snowballed from

there because

it the show drew more attention that

catalog now for the for the actual

visual art

um became sort of the focus of

controversy and in the focus of attacks

on his work there were questions about

why the money was going to this all the

way up to the white house where george

bush had sent this note to the head of

the nea

um asking about this image of jesus

shooting up heroin

and and that it's interesting that whole

controversy from that point on and the

thing with the american family

association and

um donald wildman

it was never about the entirety of any

piece of art and you know most of the

work were collages so they would take

some little portion of it and it you

know it might be five percent of the

overall piece but it was this focus

um that would draw the attention and

there were several pieces that they had

just kind of clipped

little it was like like a ransom note

cut and pasted sections out and and made

this flyer um and sent it to like every

member of congress and to to you know

various christian factions as barry

blinderman who was the curator of the

retrospective and coincidentally the

owner of you the

painting um

you know says in the film that the image

of you know jesus shooting himself up

was representative of you know jesus

taking on the pain and suffering of

humans and like that's what that meant

and it's like well if jesus were walking

around today in lower manhattan you know

he would be with the junkies and the

people who needed him most and you know

in some ways that's

what that represented i'd end up having

contests with them about who could quote

the bible better me or them

trying to explain to them that jesus was

the man of sorrows and he was here to

cleanses of our sins and if that meant

taking on the pain of a junkie then

that's what christ would have to do

what was the kind of message that you

were trying to get across in this film

in the end

it it was

about how you know the importance of art

and putting ourselves in our work and

and you know at the end of the film

david says

if the work we make as artists doesn't

contribute to the resistance we're

helping a system of control become more

perfect the message of the film in the

closing the film is is about

sort of inspiring

david putting himself in his work and

using that as a means to sort of you

know bring down the system and and you

know as he says in the film when we put

ourselves in our work we apply a tiny

amount of pressure um on a system of

control that would will willingly jump

into fascism if we didn't if there

wasn't enough pressure on its throat i

never would have voiced it that way but

that's certainly like

you know what i kind of hoped um in a

very eloquent way um

and i i think that does come across in

the film and i think that

we don't try to white wash or um

you know soften

his opinions of things and and and try

to even calling the film you know

you was i think the thing

that's most true to david and putting it

out there and

and

um in the way that you know he sort of

reclaimed it from this little

piece of graffiti um to make this

beautiful piece of art

um it seemed like a perfect way to label

the film that for people who might not

know who david is

probably can't say his name when they

see the title

but you know in the places that are

using the tagline they see you

and you know they they

know they're in for something raw and

and

possibly violent the film was supposed

to premiere at tribeca um

in 2020 and and after it was accepted we

had to kind of give them the full title

and we always knew we were going to have

some kind of

tagline subtitle but we didn't know what

it was i sort of threw it out in a

meeting and if randy and well actually

fenton instantly was like yes that's it

and randy was like i don't know and then

by the next day he was like yes um you

know so they world of wonder they were

always on board because that's also very

much in their spirit of like you know uh

a lack of creative self-censorship and

you know pushing the boundaries um but

you know from that point forward you

know it was picked up by keno lorber and

as they're marketing the film i think

i'm sure very rightly were concerned all

along the way that that that title would

be problematic and

sort of not

allowed to get the exposure that one

would hope

um and then you know a few months ago at

the met gala dan levy

wore he had the

two boys kissing and all this stuff and

suddenly everyone didn't use it but

suddenly without asterix that was

popping up in you know very respectable

and in

unexpected places

you know people are very protective of

of david's legacy not just the estate

but of course the estate who had to

approve that but i think people

who knew david and also you know

generations of

not just queer but

specifically queer people who you know

idolize david in the work that he did

that feel very protective and you know

some people weren't so keen on his work

being sort of boiled down into this this

fat piece of fashion um and put on a

runway by you know sort of a big

star but at the same time you know that

was the day before david's birthday and

on david's birthday more people across

the country were saying david's name

then would have been otherwise and

would he have approved

maybe not but if he were still alive

there would be

40 years of 30 years of david putting

his name out there and creating new work

and it would have been a non-issue but

you know i think it's it's been hard

it's like 30 years after his death

still not the most known artist for for

a variety of reasons um

his name

the work not just because it's

challenging but it's

not easily identifiable you know it's

not

a keith herring which you see keith

herring and you know it's a keith

herring it's not you know

somebody getting fist it's not a

maplefork piece and and so it's not

very little of it feels that iconic and

and i think for that reason it it's you

know

made his legacy harder to to perpetuate

um so to me

something like that i think is is

beneficial even if it you know

isn't

the ideal and and certainly i mean i

can't say that i was unhappy that

suddenly people were saying you

know the title of the film eight months

after it came out weinerovich

is you know an artist who expressed

himself through many different mediums

writing photography painting music which

speaks to you the most i

i you know i think it's the entirety of

his

life and it's all of these pieces of

work

and in the way that making the film felt

collaborative because of the way david

would reuse things in his work i think

it's hard to separate what was the most

successful because certain things were

reused and used in different ways and it

was it was almost like an you know all

hands on deck onslaught of all of his

ideas and all of his work and him trying

to figure out

reworking ideas and trying to you know

find new ways to to make it successful

even the idea of the sewn mouth is

something that

came up through david's work much

earlier in the paintings and and some of

the you know he did these sculptural

heads and so i i you know i think it's

kind of hard to to separate and say any

one thing is is the most successful i

love the idea that you felt like you

were actually

collaborating with wenderovich on this

film yeah and i was i mean throughout it

it was one of the big inspirations was

trying to get david not to like haunt me

or come back and get me you know

fortunately that hasn't happened

um but i definitely it definitely felt

like he was with us because as i said

there were problems that we would

encounter and the solution always came

from david you know

um from the from the tape journals in

interesting ways do you feel like he

would have been happy with the film um

i like to think so um i

it's hard for me to i like i i could

never go around and say well david would

love this film people that know him i've

been told by by people that knew him

that you know they think he would

approve and that means a lot to me it's

so aggressive that you know it's got

you in the title i don't

know how many documentaries have a rim

job in it but like all the reasons in

the world that it would not be well

received by the new york times or new

yorker these like establishment things

that you know that the places that uh

you know david would instantly see the

value in and

instantly be pissed about which is great

[Music]

i was just words of pictures

[Music]

[Music]

who will lie the

[Music]

an american how about that anyway

goodbye

uh

[Music]

[Applause]

[Music]

yes

[Music]

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