History Keeps Me Awake at Night surveys the work of artist, writer, and activist David Wojnarowicz (b. 1954, Red Bank; d. 1992, New York). It is the first retrospective exhibition of his work to be presented in Europe.
From the late 70s to the early 90s, David Wojnarowicz created a body of work that spanned photography, painting, music, film, sculpture, writing, and activism. Wojnarowicz was largely self-taught and came to prominence in New York in the 80s, a time marked by creative energy, financial uncertainty, and profound cultural changes. Intersecting movements – graffiti, new and no wave music, conceptual photography, performance, and neo-expressionist painting – made New York a laboratory for innovation. Wojnarowicz refused a signature style, adopting a wide variety of techniques with an attitude of radical possibility.
Wojnarowicz saw the outsider as his true subject. Queer, and later diagnosed as HIV-positive, he became an impassioned AIDS activist when an inconceivable number of friends, lovers, and strangers were suffering and dying from the disease and as a consequence of government inaction. Wojnarowicz’s work documents and illuminates a desperate period of American history: the AIDS crisis and culture wars of the late 80s and early 90s. But his rightful place is also among the raging and haunting iconoclastic voices, from Walt Whitman (b. 1819, West Hills; d. 1892, Camden) to William S. Burroughs (b. 1914, Saint-Louis; d. 1997, Lawrence), who explored American myths, their perpetuation, their repercussions, and their violence. Like theirs, his work deals directly with the timeless subjects of sex, spirituality, love, and loss. Wojnarowicz, who was 37 when he died from AIDS-related complications, wrote: ‘To make the private into something public is an action that has terrific ramifications.’