Jeffrey’s Cinema #27

In relation to our exhibition Between You and Me by Flavio Pons & Glaudio Goulart Jeffrey Babcock picked the following film:


Directed by Chris McKim
110 minutes
In English with subtitles


“David Wojnarowicz has been getting a kind of resurrection lately. He was one of those people whose lives were trampled on by the mainstream media and therefore lived in relative obscurity most of your life. But now many young artists and queer youth have been digging up his ideas and artwork for inspiration. He was a painter, writer, musician and performance artist. He was always on the edge, and lived a life that was unorthodox, risky and dangerous – he certainly didn’t believe in trigger warnings or safe spaces. In fact, he wanted people to be triggered, he believed in catharsis and activism. He pretty much hated the art world as it exists today, especially institutions like museums. He was a crucial fixture in the underground art scene of New York City in the 1980s, and collaborated with a lot of offbeat artists and transgressive filmmakers. As a queer in a homophobic country like America, he grappled with his identity against all the confused prejudices around him.


So this is a documentary portrait of David’s life, starting from his childhood and then going into his teenage years as he started drifting and searching for his identity. But it is also more than that, it is also a snapshot of the special underground cultural scene in the ungentrified New York City of the 1970s and 80s – the performances, the volatile exhibitions, and the ‘no wave’ music scene. He was also, like so many queers, fatally diagnosed HIV positive and became an activist who struggled publicly, privately and politically in the face of death.

Some people feel that this documentary censors parts of David’s life, just as he was censored throughout all of his life. I can’t speak to what extent that censorship is true, but I can say that at least it gives a strong overview of his ideas and commitments and taps into a lot of incredibly important material. Through cassette tapes and filmed interviews we dive deep into his thoughts, dreams and fears. Likewise some people complain that the editing is rough and jarring, but I think that reflects the punky spirit of both David and the underground art scene back in the 1980s, so in that way it fits perfectly.”