Wednesday, April 20, 2011


"Here's another Latin phrase: Cui bono?"
-Ann Althouse

Serrano's 'art'
Andres Serrano crafted a work he called "Piss Christ" in which he put a crucifix in a jar of urine. Most of his work is along these lines, deliberately provocative, even insulting things designed to trigger an emotional response. He prefers to work with subjects like the KKK, burnt corpses of people, and the like. His intent is to make people see things in a new light, and claims that the purpose of his work is to "monumentalize or aestheticize the mundane."

He has a particular problem with the Roman Catholic church, but claims to be a member. He doesn't care for their policies such as no female priests, no homosexuality, and no birth control or abortion, but calls himself a Christian. Serrano claims that "Piss Christ" was a statement on the misuse of religion.

A display of his works in France was attacked by a vandal who used a hammer and some cutting implement to damage the displays. Angelique Chrisafis at the UK Guardian tries really hard to link this to Christians:
Controversy has followed the work ever since, but reached an unprecedented peak on Palm Sunday when it was attacked with hammers and destroyed after an "anti-blasphemy" campaign by French Catholic fundamentalists in the southern city of Avignon.

The violent slashing of the picture, and another Serrano photograph of a meditating nun, has plunged secular France into soul-searching about Christian fundamentalism and Nicolas Sarkozy's use of religious populism in his bid for re-election next year.
Incidentally, the Guardian article referred to a Senator Jesse "James" originally instead of Helms. Anyone who's been paying attention to France for the last ten years or more knows that when it comes to fundamentalism causing problems in the country, Christians are the last people one should look at. They aren't burning cars and smashing windows in regular riots, like "Asian youths" are.

Because various Christian groups expressed their dislike of the display which featured many Christian images displayed in at best disrespectful ways, the gallery owner called their input "medieval," "persecution," and "extremist harassment."

Mind you this has given the gallery and Mr Serrano, who hasn't been in the news for a while, a lot of attention and no doubt donations and purchases. Ann Althouse wonders if it isn't possible this could have been an inside job, for the publicity. The gallery is reopening with the damaged art to show what barbarians people are.

Yet with the state of the art world these days, it isn't easy to tell the difference between "art" and "vandalized art." Many artists are deliberately putting destroyed or broken things out, including slashed or defaced pictures and canvasses, as a finished work of art.

In any case, since the "Piss Christ" was a photo of the jar with a crucifix, all that was damaged is a color print, or as the gallery puts it "Cibachrome prints" which is fancy talk for a copy. So that work wasn't actually vandalized any more than me photoshopping a picture of the Mona Lisa.

I don't think someone's work should be damaged or vandalized no matter how lousy or cheap it is. I also don't think this guy's work is art, but it is his work. Its just not very good, so it ought to be ignored, not destroyed or yelled about.

And it seems to me that if we're going to demand respect, diversity of opinion, and multiculturalism, we should be as sensitive to the feelings and dignity of Christians at least as much as we are to Muslims or other peoples. The thing is, if someone had put a picture of Muhammad in a jar of Urine, there wouldn't have been hearings about the validity of the National Endowment for the Arts, there would have been beheadings and burning buildings.

You did realize that's all Jesse Helms was yelling about, right? He didn't say that Serrano should be burned at the stake or banned from exhibition, he didn't call for penalties or sanction against Serrano or the gallery. He just said it was offensive and American taxpayers should not be compelled to pay for that kind of thing. Which is hard to argue with.

And again, when you offend a Christian, all you get are angry emails, and possibly a vandal. When you offend Muslims, you get death threats, dead people and wide spread destruction. Because the art and political world keeps giving in to Muslims and avoiding them as a topic, you are rewarding their behavior with exactly what they seek.

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