1 Minute 1 Work: Beautiful People
David Wojnarowicz believed that drag queens are ‘true revolutionaries’ who colourfully disrupt the ‘visual codes of gender.’ A provocative figure in the New York City art world of the 1980s, Wojnarowicz was a painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist and activist.
Curator Vincent Honoré narrates the unfolding of Wojnarowicz’ final film Beautiful People (1988). The film, made in collaboration with Jesse Hultberg, follows Hultberg as he makes himself up, leaves the city and disappears – fully clothed – into a lake, the world erupting into technicolour as he does so. Honoré recognises the beauty and socio-political significance of this work, made ‘at the climax of the aids crisis’.
One of the particular ways artists have used Drag happened in the 80s, at the climax of the of the aids crisis.
In this video, by David Wojnarowicz, you see a man waking up and shaving. You feel that this person is possibly going to work. And then, he’s applying make-up. You know that it’s in New York. Then he goes to the forest, the video becoming coloured. He has an absolutely beautiful red dress. He’s entering a lake, and disappearing into the water…
This is one of the most moving images of what was called ‘the crisis of representation’, when all of these people were dying alone. It’s a very beautiful and moving image created by someone who himself would die of the consequences of aids.
With thanks to
Electronic Arts Intermix
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern
The Estate of David Wojnarowicz
David Wojnarowicz and Jesse Hultberg, 1988
Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York
and P·P·O·W Gallery, New York
© The Estate of David Wojnarowicz
Jake Nevins, ‘David Wojnarowicz: remembering the work of a trailblazing artist’, The Guardian, 13 July 2018
‘David Wojnarowicz: History Keeps Me Awake at Night’, Whitney Museum of American Art
‘The Estate of David Wojnarowicz’, P·P·O·W Gallery, New York
‘David Wojnarowicz’, Visual Aids
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