Question: Easter’s coming up. What is the Reason for this Season?
Answer: Ham. Or if you’re me, potatoes. Because despite being as goyim as they come (At NECSS, Joshie Berger lamented “You even say ‘goy’ like a goy…”) I ended up going to three seders and ate half my weight in root vegetables. The other half was a combination of wine, matzo, and Moses-themed Billy Joel parody songs. But I digress.
While I was trying to chase away hangovers with Charton Heston’s performance in the Ten Commandments, my guard was down and an act of artistic vandalism occurred. On Sunday (Palm Sunday), an art gallery in France was vandalized by a group of christian protesters. The target? The legendary Andres Serrano photograph Immersion (Piss Christ). The image features a plastic crucifix suspended in a mixture of Serrano’s blood and urine. During Sunday’s attack, it was struck with a hammer and a pick of some sort. Right in Jesus’ face too, which seemed weird to me. They didn’t see the irony in stabbing Jesus’ face with a pick?
The photograph itself is a criticism of the billion dollar business that is christianity and how faith is misused for ignoble purposes. Serrano must be grinning from ear to ear right now. Point. Made.
So here’s today’s inquisition: Between this incident, the Danish cartoon featuring Mohammed, and Mohammed the Bear, we know that dealing with even the most superficial of religious representations brings great ire. Clearly there is no reason to these seasons. What do you think makes inanimate representations of arguably fictional people just as important as the person themselves? Is there a solution?
I’ll be over here, eating brisket.
The ART Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Mad Art Lab community. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.
I hope they never repair the artwork. The damage will make it a more compelling work…and hopefully even MORE valuable! Mwahhhaahahaha!!
Symbols play such a large role in art and in religion. We make symbols and then imbue them with meaning, with power. This makes me think of the study where people have an aversion to wearing a sweater that they believe was worn previously by a murderer. The object becomes ‘tainted’ by its association.
If a cracker can literally be interpreted as being the body of Jesus, imagine what an actual physical representation of Jesus means to a believer. Even if it is a mass-produced piece of plastic, which is kind of the point of Piss Christ.
How would the average Christian observer who has taken offense at this photograph know that this was actually a veiled critique of the mistreatment of religion disguised as a religious trinket drowning in someones urine? It seems that a ‘correct’ interpretation of the artist’s intent requires a supplementary aid to understanding. Perhaps all this anger suggests a failure on the part of the art work itself to adequately communicate to a less informed audience. I think it is reasonable to be skeptical about this works ‘true’ meaning, how am I to know the difference between a crucifix in urine that is a criticism of the business of religion from a crucifix in urine that isn’t? It doesn’t surprise me that a religious observer- seeing the rather beautiful image of the photograph and then reading the title “Piss Christ” is going to have a strong reaction against the work- and I doubt Serrano is surprised either. That said, I would certainly support the artists right to say whatever he wants about religion or the business of religion- this kind of vigilante censorship is unfortunate- but as you suggest, probably good for the the billion dollar business of art.