.- Catholic leaders in the Diocese of Brooklyn have objected to a Brooklyn Museum art exhibit’s planned inclusion of a video that includes a disturbing use of the crucifix.
“Ants were crawling on the image of the crucified Christ,” said Msgr. Kieran Harrington, a diocese spokesman. “Certainly we don’t think this would be tolerated if this was the image of the Prophet Mohammed or any other religious symbol.”
The museum intends to show a four-minute edit of a short unfinished film “A Fire in My Belly” by the late artist David Wojnarowicz.
The 10-second section at issue shows a crucifix laying on the ground as ants scamper across Jesus’ body. Other scenes from the film about suffering include images of blood-like drops falling into a dish, a boy breathing fire and bloody sewn-together human lips.
“As a Catholic, this is very sad for me,” Crown Heights resident Ginette Peterburs told the Daily News. “It is not art, it is just disguising.”
The Diocese of Brooklyn sent a letter to the Brooklyn Museum about the exhibit. Stephanie Gutierrez, the diocese’s press secretary, told CNA on Nov. 10 that the letter was a personal communication to the museum from Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and would not be released to the press.
The video’s creator intended it to explore the subject of AIDS, the Associated Press says. He created it before being diagnosed with the syndrome, whose effects killed him at age 37 in 1992.
The video is part of a larger collection of gender identity-themed artworks that were displayed at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington last year until controversy resulted in their removal in December 2010.
Brooklyn Museum director Arnold Lehman told the Associated Press the museum wanted to present the exhibition because “it’s such an important aspect of American art in the 20th century.”
"My hope is that this will be an extraordinarily important way in which to bring the entire city together to celebrate American art during this last century," Lehman continued.
"This is New York City. This is a city that has thrived on the incredible contributions from the gay and lesbian community. This is a state that's just passed a very progressive legalization of gay marriage."
The Brooklyn Museum was the center of controversy more than 10 years ago when it displayed an artwork of the Virgin Mary surrounded by shellacked clumps of elephant dung.
Then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to cut the museum’s funding because of the exhibit.
In 2001, the museum showed an artwork which depicted Jesus Christ as a nude woman.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said the exhibit was “anti-Catholic” and that the Brooklyn Museum was “New York’s most anti-Catholic museum.”
He said the Catholic League would not organize demonstrations outside the museum because it considers the removal of the exhibit from the National Portrait Gallery to be “the big prize” and because the video has been shown many times at other venues.