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Posted at 4:24 PM ET, 12/10/2010

Wojnarowicz inspiration for Bono and U2

By Staff reports
The "One" album cover.

A friend sent us a reminder of a U2-David Wojnarowicz connection. A year before Wojnarowicz died in 1992 of complications from AIDS, U2 used his famous photograph of a buffalo going over a cliff as the cover image for "One," which was released as a single with proceeds going towards AIDS research. U2 also used a Wojnarowicz quote: "Smell the flowers while you can," at the end of "One."

If you've been out of the country for the past week or otherwise oblivious to the news, Wojnarowicz's video work, "A Fire in My Belly," was removed from the "Hide/Seek" exhibit at the Smithsonian National Gallery of Art after complaints from some Catholic groups and Congress members.

The song, often a centerpiece of their live show, is used to promote human rights and social justice causes. It also inspired the name of Bono's charitable organization, the ONE Campaign.

Smithsonian controversy

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The photo is a detail shot from an Old West diorama that Wojnarowicz found at the Museum of National History in 1989. Interestingly, Wojnarowicz may have been in Washington then because the National Endowment for the Arts had rescinded funding for the "Tongue of Flames" catalog for his exhibition at Illinois State University.

Bono, in a March 1993 Rolling Stone interview, discussed the use of Wojnarowicz's images in the "One" video:

"Adam [Clayton] is the man who turned me on to Wojnarowicz's work, Whatever you do now, you are in the post-AIDS age. It's there, and you've got to walk through it or around it. And if a record deals with any kind of erotic subject matter, the specter of AIDS is even all the more close.

"You know, if Freud was even half-right, if sex is even close to the center of our lives, how is it that we leave it to pornographers and dum-dum guys? We leave the subject to them, and it's reduced to titillation in the cinema, to these kind of half-baked plots. Wojnarowicz dealt with the subject seriously, he took it on. I can't believe how people can just walk around it, you know?"

More on this story:

Wojnarowicz sounded an alarm in dire times
Board member resigns over controversy
Banned ant video still creeps into gallery
Photos: March for a controversial video | VIDEO
Video: Post critic debates Smithsonian censorship on CNN
Gallery shows Wojnarowicz video | VIDEO
Reaction to ants-and-crucifix controversy | VIDEO
Q&A: Catholic League president William Donohue
Ant-covered Jesus video removed after complaints
Gopnik: National Portrait Gallery bows to censors
Going Out Gurus: 'Hide/Seek': Go see it for yourself
Video: A clip from the ant-covered Jesus work

By Staff reports  | December 10, 2010; 4:24 PM ET
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