Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker
by Hope Madden
Maybe you don’t know who David Wojnarowicz is. Maybe you have no idea how to pronounce his name. It might be safer to butcher the provocative late artist’s last name (voy-nah-ROYH-vitch) than to read the title of director Chris McKim’s documentary aloud—Wojnarowicz: F**k You F*ggot F**ker.
It doesn’t really matter what you call it as long as you see it.
The film primarily uses Wojnarowicz’s own recordings, photos and paintings to let him tell his story. A profound influence on New York’s art scene in the 1980s and into the ‘90s, the multimedia artist’s work delivered among the earliest and most startling images of queer art in the city.
McKim had a lot to work with. Wojnarowicz made hundreds of audio cassettes, recording his thoughts in a sometimes wounded monotone. The stream of conscious monologues often dip into the outright poetic and create a poignant soundtrack for the life and work on display.
The documentarian does enlist some additional voices, including friend Fran Lebowitz and frequent collaborator Marion Schemama, but relies mainly on Wojnarowicz’s own visuals to create the sense of isolation, alienation and anger that fueled much of his work.
Wojnarowicz and his work, as well as his death, became a focal point of the mishandled AIDS epidemic that scars the politics and history of the 1980s.
In much the way Wojnarowicz’s work reflected his hellish upbringing and time on the streets, McKim’s film contextualizes the artist among that which he influenced: a city, a movement, a scene, politics, and other artists.
As is crucial in a doc about a visual artist, the screen is routinely filled to brimming with Wojnarowicz’s creations. Powerful, inflammatory, sexually explicit and unmistakably challenging, the work itself looms large in the documentary as if to ensure that it reaches out to as many as possible who forgot, never knew, or may have been kept from it.