David Wojnarowicz’s fractured scrapbook of dream journals, political critique and collage—an ultra-rare document of 1980s New York subculture
David Wojnarowicz’s In the Shadow of Forward Motion was originally published as a photocopied zine/artist’s book to accompany an exhibition of the same name at PPOW Gallery in 1989. Despite its meager print run of just 50 copies, the publication has garnered a legendary status, and for good reason.
In it we find, for the first time, Wojnarowicz’s writing and visual art, two mediums for which he is renowned, playing off each other in equal measure. We glimpse the artist’s now iconic mixed-media works, with motifs of ants, locomotives, money, tornados and dinosaurs, juxtaposed with journal-like texts or “notes towards a frame of reference” that examine historical and global mechanisms of power symbolized through the technology of their times.
Wojnarowicz uses the fractured experience of his day-to-day life (including dreams, which he recorded fastidiously) to expose these technologies as weapons of class, cultural and racial oppression. The artist’s experience living with HIV is a constant subject of the work, used to shed light on the political and social mechanisms perpetuating discrimination against not only himself, but against women and people of color, who faced additional barriers in their efforts to receive treatment for the illness. Rooted in the maelstrom of art, politics, religion and civil rights of the 1980s, the book provides a startling glimpse into an American culture that we have not yet left behind. Félix Guattari provides an introduction.
Painter, photographer, writer, filmmaker, performance artist, songwriter and activist, David Wojnarowicz was born in Redbank, New Jersey, in 1954 and died of AIDS in New York in 1992. The author of five books—most famously Close to the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration—Wojnarowicz attained national prominence as a writer and advocate for AIDS awareness, and for his stance against censorship.