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Notions of the Collaborative in the Work of David Wojnarowicz

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Fiona Anderson



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


Drawing on the recent Semiotext(e) publication David Wojnarowicz: A Definitive History of Five or Six Years on the Lower East Side, edited by Sylvère Lotringer, this article explores various notions of collaborative art practice in Wojnarowicz’s work. It draws attention to his numerous collaborative projects in order to explore the role of an interactive subjectivity in his art and in the community of the East Village art scene of the late 1970s and early 1980s more generally. Beginning with a focus on downtown living conditions, the problem of gentrification and its complex relationship with artistic communities in the East Village, I explore Wojnarowicz’s early fascination with drug culture and criminality and their representation in his early work: the ‘acid jam’ painting sessions led by Carlo McCormick, Wojnarowicz’s work at Civilian Warfare gallery, and the Ward Line Pier Project (1983), a major collaboration with painter Mike Bidlo. Drawing on this socio-economic analysis, the focus then shifts to explore collaboration in Wojnarowicz’s work as a form of ‘citational grafting’; a means of exploring ideas of queer history, genealogy and identity in ‘multigenerational’ collaborations with queer writers that fits with processes of collaboration in Wojnarowicz’s work as a whole. Jacques Derrida’s writings on ‘hauntology’ frame the discussion of works like the photographic series Arthur Rimbaud in New York (1978-9), and xeroxed collages of Jean Genet, which concludes with Wojnarowicz’s death bed portraits of Peter Hujar, and explores the impact of HIV/AIDS on this queer collaborative practice.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Anderson F

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Papers of Surrealism

Year: 2010

Issue: 8

Online publication date: 23/07/2010

Acceptance date: 28/02/2010

Date deposited: 16/09/2015

ISSN (electronic): 1750-1954

Publisher: Centre for the Study of Surrealism and its Legacies, University of Manchester