David Wojnarowicz’s In the Shadow of Forward Motion was originally published in 1989 as a limited-run zine/catalog to accompany an exhibition by the artist at P.P.O.W gallery. Despite its meager print run of just 50 copies, the publication has garnered a legendary status, and for good reason. In it we find Wojnarowicz’s writing and visual art—two mediums for which the artist is renowned—sitting side by side for the first time, playing off each other in equal measure. We glimpse the artist’s now-iconic mixed media works, with motifs of ants, locomotives, money, tornadoes, and dinosaurs, juxtaposed with journal entries and other texts 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 structures 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 1980s art, politics, religion and civil rights, the book provides a startling glimpse into an American culture that we have not yet left behind. Félix Guattari provides an introduction.
David Wojnarowicz (1954-1992) was born in Red Bank, New Jersey. Wojnarowicz channeled a vast accumulation of raw images, sounds, memories and lived experiences into a powerful voice that was an undeniable presence in the New York City art scene of the 1970s, 80s and early 90s. Through his several volumes of fiction, poetry, memoirs, painting, photography, installation, sculpture, film and performance, Wojnarowicz left a legacy, affirming art’s vivifying power in a society he viewed as alienating and corrosive. His use of blunt semiotics and graphic illustrations exposed what he felt the mainstream repressed: poverty, abuse of power, blind nationalism, greed, homophobia and the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. Wojnarowicz died of AIDS-related complications on July 22, 1992 at the age of 37.