To mark the twentieth anniversary of its original publication of Brush Fires in the Social Landscape, a seminal collection of David Wojnarowicz's paintings, photographs, and writings, Aperture has invited writers and artists to reflect on the artist's legacy. Here's the beginning of Lynn Tillman's contribution, which you can read in full at the Aperture website:
I’m almost certain Kiki Smith introduced me to David Wojnarowicz. I knew about him, his Rimbaud pictures were pasted on walls and stenciled on sidewalks in the East Village. In my mind’s eye, we’re on a sidewalk, maybe on Houston Street; it’s windy, late fall or early winter, and Wojnarowicz is standing behind Kiki. Consciousness superimposes scenes from the present onto the past, or mixes one distant moment with another; memory has forever been photo-shopped. The technology replicates a natural, involuntary default position in the brain, or a human inclination to fuse events. Photo-shopping can deliberately distort or corrupt historical events; human memory is distorted, first, by subjectivity or point of view, then by the passage of time. Was it a dream, a photograph, did I hear the story, did it actually happen? The clock marks seconds, minutes, hours; the calendar, days, months, and years—these human productions divide now from then, and from the future. The unconscious doesn’t obey time, which also confuses memory, and can make days feel endless or too short. Maybe that’s why people invented what Shakespeare, in Richard II, called time’s “numb’ring clock.” I picture Wojnarowicz with his head down; he was tall, I’m short, which would influence how I saw him, and he me. He might have been looking sideways, and appeared shy or elusive. He had a long face, uneven features, and a smoker’s raspy voice. Other adjectives pop up: gangly, rawboned, intense, weirdly funny, restless, sad, sensitive, vulnerable. But this isn’t a portrait of the artist as a young man. Wojnarowicz’s portrait was, in a profound sense, shot by his time.
Above image: David Wojnarowicz, Seeds of Industry II, 1988–89