Arts Desk

iPad Protesters to Return to National Portrait Gallery With Trailer—and Permits

Michael Blasenstein and Michael Iacovone, who were detained and ejected from the National Portrait Gallery last month for displaying a censored video artwork inside the museum, are back to protest the Smithsonian Institution. They return with a format much larger than an iPad—plus the proper paperwork for their demonstration.

Blasenstein and Iacovone will park a trailer they describe as a "Museum of Censored Art" on the 700 block of F Street NW, in two parking spaces outside the southern entrance of the museum. Starting next Thursday, Blasenstein and Iacovone (and volunteers) will man the trailer from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day until the "Hide/Seek" exhibit closes on Feb. 13.

"The goal of course is to hold the Smithsonian accountable," says Blasenstein. "If this gallery on their doorstep doesn't convince them to do the right thing and restore the video, then the only other way we can think of to hold the Smithsonian accountable is to call for [Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution] Wayne Clough to answer for his actions in a public forum."

Inside the trailer, they will screen David Wojnarowicz's "A Fire in My Belly," which Sec. Clough had removed from the National Portrait Gallery exhibit on GLBT portraiture last month following pressure from conservative political activist organizations.

"We will also have exhibits detailing the how the censorship happened, examining the roles of the pressure groups as well as the Smithsonian," says Blasenstein.

On Tuesday, Jan. 11, Philippa Hughes's Pink Line Project will host a fundraiser for Blasenstein and Iacovone at American Ice Company, a bar that opened last month at 917 V St. NW. For $10, protest supporters may enter a raffle for gift certificates from American Ice Company, Marvin, Room 11, and others. The happy hour will feature drink specials from 6 to 8 p.m.

Blasenstein says that the fundraiser will help pay for the trailer rental and parking fees with the city—about $5,000, including costs for materials. The activists are largely bearing those costs themselves. The activists also launched a website: http://dontcensor.us.

"We haven't said anything to NPG," said Iacovone, "but I suspect they're going to find out real soon."

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