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Ant-covered crucifix video sparks controversy

By Julia Talanova, CNN
The exhibit, entitled "A Fire in My Belly, A Work in Progress," was produced by David Wojnarowicz, who died in 1992.
The exhibit, entitled "A Fire in My Belly, A Work in Progress," was produced by David Wojnarowicz, who died in 1992.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A video that features ants crawling over a crucifix went on display in New York
  • A Smithsonian museum removed the exhibit after protests
  • The video is over 30 minutes long and includes graphic sexual content
  • Dozens of galleries have requested rights to show the video
RELATED TOPICS
  • Visual Arts
  • New York

New York (CNN) -- A video that features ants crawling over a crucifix has gone on display at a New York gallery -- after it was banned from a Smithsonian museum -- raising questions over the boundaries of freedom of expression in a city known for its art.

The exhibit, entitled "A Fire in My Belly, A Work in Progress," was produced by David Wojnarowicz, who died in 1992 after suffering from AIDS.

It began screening Saturday at the New Museum, which is devoted exclusively to contemporary art, according to the museum website.

The complete video is over 30 minutes long and includes graphic sexual content -- including masturbation and full frontal nudity -- and has renewed opposition from religious groups offended by the depiction of Jesus covered by insects.

"I think that in the artistic community, directors, curators are tremendously insensitive to Christians, they respond by claiming victim status and I find it appalling," said Catholic League President Bill Donohue. "You can't make fun of the Holocaust, you can't make fun of black slavery..... and you can't even depict anything about Mohammed."

The video was recently removed from a Smithsonian exhibit after Donohue led protests against it and petitioned Congress to cut the institution's funding after it presented the video.

"The New Museum has always defended freedom of expression and continues to oppose censorship," said museum director

Lisa Phillips in a written statement. "We cannot afford to take hard won civil liberties for granted and need to remain vigilant and protect artistic freedom."

The move prompted dozens of art galleries to request the rights to show the video, said Wendy Olsoff, co-owner of the P.P.O.W. Gallery, which holds the rights to the video.

"I think it was a bad decision, poor judgment," she said. "Someone who didn't see it, called it in, put pressure and they pulled it. If you pull one piece how do you know another wouldn't be pulled. That's censorship."

The video is currently displayed in the museum's lobby and can be viewed free of charge.