Those in the know immediately recognized that Dan Levy‘s astonishing Met Gala costume was inspired by David Wojnarowicz. In honor of Wojnarowicz’s birthday today, we asked director Chris McKim about the costume, and about WOW’s film Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker:
Wojnarowicz, who died of AIDS in 1992 at age 37, created art that was a searing indictment on American politics and culture. McKim gets asked all the time time what Wojnarowicz would say about something like Levy’s homage. McKim said:
“What would David say about X?” is the question I’ve been asked most over the last year of interviews and panels around the release of our lil film Wojnarowicz: F—k You F-ggot F—ker. With X being everything from the Trump era to art in museums to what would David think about a person like me making a film about him.
Each time I say, “I would never presume to put words in the mouth of David Wojnarowicz, but we do know what he did say….” and follow with a quote from David…usually, “In my imagination I can douse Jesse Helms with gasoline and set his putrid ass on fire.”
In this case, “When people put themselves on the line in their work, whether it’s music, writing, photography, painting or whatever, in terms of culture with a capital “C,” they apply a tiny amount of pressure against a system of control that would willingly jump into fascism if there wasn’t enough pressure on its throat.”
Senator Jesse Helms was among the very worst of the homophobic AIDS-era politicians, as explored in the documentary Dear Jesse:
Helms, Ronald Reagan, and conservative leaders didn’t just stand by and do nothing. They whipped up fear and hatred of gay people and those living with HIV that has stigmatized anyone with HIV. The effect was so powerful that it lasts to this day.
McKim has lot of other insights into Wojnarowicz’s work and the documentary in this terrific interview for ScreenSlam:
Wojnarowicz knew he had little time, so he raged against the dying light until his body gave out. Here’s a great overview from the 2018 exhibit at The Whitney, titled David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night:
Happy 67th birthday, David Wojnarowicz!
Images: JPI Studios / Avalon