Mike Blasenstein and Michael Dax Iacovone, creators of the one-month-only Museum of Censored Art, have received the John Phillip Immroth Memorial Award for intellectual freedom by the American Library Association, one of the most well-known anti-censorship organizations in the country.
The museum was responsible for showcasing the censored film, “A Fire in My Belly,” by gay artist David Wojnarowicz. The video was originally a part of the gay and lesbian art exhibition “Hide/Seek” at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, and contains an 11-second segment that shows ants running on a crucifix.
After the film was banned by Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough, Blasenstein and Iacovone set up a trailer in front of the institution’s National Portrait Gallery, where the film was shown along with other exhibits concerning the controversy about the film. The exhibits included a timeline of the Smithsonian’s censorship and one that contrasted Clough’s words and actions.
Almost 6,500 patrons came to visit the trailer, which was open from Jan. 13 to Feb. 13, the last day of the “Hide/Seek” exhibit. In a phone interview, Blasenstein said that while the honor is appreciated, the Smithsonian has bigger issues to solve concerning what he says he thinks is a now-tarnished image.
“I think this really shows that even though Secretary Clough and the Regents all just kind of wanted this controversy to go away from the very beginning, it’s not going away, and what this shows is that they’ve really done some deep and lasting damage to the Smithsonian’s reputation,” he said.
The award will be given June 25 to Blasenstein and Iacovone in New Orleans at the association’s annual conference.