Writing for Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums

The Installations of David Wojnarowicz Database

David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) can be described as an artist, writer, musician, performer, filmmaker, photographer, and activist, but beyond these labels, he was a man trying to make sense of the world. Wojnarowicz is a quintessentially American artist in post-war America. After growing up in a violent home in the New Jersey suburbs, Wojnarowicz found himself living on the streets of New York and turning “tricks” in Times Square. This sense of fear and marginalization gave him the strength to see the world for what it was and the ability to respond to it. Wojnarowicz not only reflected what he saw in society, but he created an alternative kind of language and history in all aspects of his creative projects. Almost all of his work is layered either in meaning or physicality—he wanted to say more than one thing at once and present compacted information because that is how the world appeared to him. This relational and interdisciplinary approach came at a time when installation art was beginning to take form as a recognizable practice.

The metadata records created for this project are intended to better document the installation artworks by David Wojnarowicz. Each installation record was created at the Collection level and each component of the installation was recorded at the Item level. In order to ensure that the metadata associated with these complex installation artworks is useful, context and thorough description are essential. I will be including David Wojnarowicz as the sole Creator and all collaborators as Contributors. Distinct artworks and components will be recorded as Items. Wojnarowicz frequently reused/recycled objects and imagery throughout his work and over time, so by using the Relation element, these Items will be connected to other works by Wojnarowicz and other artists. External links will be included when appropriate.

While much of Wojnarowicz’s creative output has been examined and written about by politicians who opposed his work, activists who supported his struggles, critics and academics who have grappled with his art and personal history, one gap in the scholarship still surrounds his installations. A caption on a photograph of an installation might say, “Mixed media, installation,” but that really does not give us anything useful. Many of Wojnarowicz’s installation artworks were done in the 1980s at now defunct galleries in Lower Manhattan and the East Village. This may explain why this aspect of Wojnarowicz’s body of work has been overlooked but does not excuse it. Not only are they complex works of art, but these installations would go up, be open to the public, and be taken down. The nature of installation is interdisciplinary and often ephemeral; It is a medium that engages the space it is presented in, the context of the things around it, and the time/duration it is given.

Dublin Core was used as the metadata schema to ensure that each installation and each component of these installations was given a basic record. This schema is not the most robust for describing this type of relational and spatially-based artwork, it is common and will be interoperable with other schemas.