Michael Blasenstein, along with Michael Iacovone, the two protesters who were stopped last month from showing inside the museum a controversial video that was removed from the National Portrait Gallery, are planning to bring the art work to the curb outside the museum.
Starting Jan. 13, Blasenstein is converting a 8 x 40 feet trailer into a screening room to show David Wojnarowicz's "A Fire in My Belly," the video that created a firestorm at the Smithsonian Institution and among conservative politicans and supporters of the arts and freedom of expression.
In late November, a month after the show "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture," opened, the Smithsonian received numerous complaints that the video, which had an image of ants crawling over a crucifix, was offensive. The museum showed 11 seconds of that image and removed the entire Wojnarowicz video. Smithsonian officials maintained that the controversy was a distraction from the merits of the more than 100 art works that reflected artistic approaches to gender and sexuality.Many artists and funders were outraged.
As their first protest in early December Blasenstein and Iacovone tried to show the video in the hallway outside the exhibition on an iPad, suspended around Blasenstein's neck. He was also holding a few flyers about the protest. Iacovone was taking a video of the action and both were charged with disorderly conduct by the Metropolitan Police.
The new protest, which was first reported Wednesday by the Washington City Paper, involved getting police permits for the parking spaces and renting the trailer, nicknamed "Museum of Censored Art."
Blasenstein said his views of the Smithsonian's action hadn't changed.
"Certain people don't believe that gay people should be seen in America or that their point of view should be heard," he said. "The video was originally part of the exhibit and we want to make sure people can see it. And we want to make the Smithsonian accountable and to get answers from the decision-makers. The protest is about visibility and making the decision-makers visible."
Linda St. Thomas, the spokesperson for the Smithsonian, said "the video can now be seen in about 100 locations around the country. We hope people who go to the trailer will also go inside to see the full exhibit."
The trailer will be parked in the 700 block of F Street N.W. from Jan. 13 to Feb. 13, the last day of the show. The screening hours will be from 11 a.m.to 7 p.m.