Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker is a in-your-face documentary portrait of downtown New York City artist, writer, photographer, and activist David Wojnarowicz. As New York City became the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Wojnarowicz weaponized his work and waged war against the establishment’s indifference to the plague until his death from it in 1992 at the age of 37. He incorporated personal narratives influenced by his struggle with AIDS, as well as his political activism in his art . The full title of this documentary is in reference to one of his pieces he created, after finding a discarded piece of paper with those exact words written on it.
In this film, we see exclusive access to his complete body of work, including paintings, journals, and films, that reveals how Wojnarowicz dedicated his life into his art and activism. Rediscovered answering machine tape recordings and intimate recollections from the likes of Fran Lebowitz, Gracie Mansion, Peter Hujar, and other friends and family help present a stirring portrait of this fiercely political, unapologetically queer artist.
Wojnarowicz was born in Red Bank, New Jersey where he and his siblings survived physical abuse by their father. He later relocated to Manhattan where he worked as a teenage street hustler, before beginning his career in the arts, working as multi-media artist, which included street art, super-8 films, and music. He was part of the group 3 Teens Kill 4, featuring David and other NYC artists. Most members were working at the Danceteria when it got busted for operating illegally after-hours. Their name was taken from a New York Post headline, and their first performance was at the staff party, December 1080. David also wrote books on the topic of AIDS, as well as a personal memoir.
The story of David Wojnarowicz is quite similar to similar NYC subculture queer fringe artists of the 1980s era, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Harring. All were young, ambitious, lost, and talented individuals whose careers ascended from living on the streets to achieving some level of notoriety within the upper echelons of the art world. All three unfortunately had their lives cut short, with both Wojnarowicz and Harring succumbing to AIDS, and Basquiat dying of a heroin overdose. An insurmountable loss that included so many others from within the queer and artistic worlds.
This documentary goes deep in the life of Wojnarowicz, from his early family life, to the last photos every taken of him alive, and dead. A good portion of the commentary is his own, culminated from tape recordings he had done, and recovered phone messages. He lived an independent existence, not really establishing any real loving relationship, but did develop a few long lasting friendships. Most notably was his friendship with known photographer Peter Hujar,
whom he remained close with until Hujar’s death from AIDS.
It was after this that Wojnarowicz became very vocal about the lack of empathy or action that was being taken toward an epidemic that seemingly was spreading among the gay male population exclusively at the time. As more friends contracted the virus, his political activism became stronger and more visual in his work as well. He didn’t shy away from controversy, and was quite vocal about being queer, and here. Prior to his eventual death on July 22., 1992 he held a final exhibition which he attended, and since then there have been several retrospectives done on his work, including at the Whitney Museum in NYC.
Definitely worth the watch for an inside look at the 80s NYC art and music scene, a historical look at the AIDS epidemic during the height of its crisis, and a personal perspective of a talented artist and activist.
Opening March 19 with Toronto’s
RSVP: March 30 Live Virtual Q&A with Chris McKim & Editor Dave Stanke,
moderated by artist/activist Leo Herrara
About the Author
Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.