In 1978 and 1979, David Wojnarowicz (September 14, 1954 – July 22, 1992), wore a paper mask of Arthur Rimbaud, the gay French poet seething with restless desire who craved “free freedom” (schoolboy motto: “Shit on God”) (...)
In 1978 and 1979, David Wojnarowicz (September 14, 1954 – July 22, 1992), wore a paper mask of Arthur Rimbaud, the gay French poet seething with restless desire who craved “free freedom” (schoolboy motto: “Shit on God”). Wojnarowicz wore the mask as moved through parts of New York he’d hung out in with his one-time lover Peter Hujar, a man he called “my brother, my father, my emotional link to the world”.
Better known for his paintings – Wojnarowicz made the picture of buffalo falling down a cliff that U2 slapped on the cover of their One album (1992) – Wojnarowicz was part flâneur, part time-traveller as he slotted himself into the moment to show us something unconsidered.
“To place an object or piece of writing that contains what is invisible because of legislation or social taboo into an environment outside myself makes me feel not so alone,” he writes in Close to the Knives, his testimony to the “Fear of diversity in America”. It is kind of like a ventriloquist’s dummy – the only difference is that the work can speak by itself or act like that magnet to attract others who carried this enforced silence.” Rimbaud (October 20, 1854 – November 10, 1891) wasn’t a disguise. Rimbaud was Wojnarowicz’s confidant, ally and fellow witness to humanity’s age-old ability to lie to ourselves.
That buffalo symbolised the AIDs crisis, the disease that would kill him. “It is exhausting, living in a population where people don’t speak up if what they witness doesn’t directly threaten them,” he wrote. Could the monocular be made to fully see things they wanted to demonise and keep out of sight and out of mind?