Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Transgressions Against the Transgressive

Things that make you go hmmm.

When New York artist Andres Serrano plunged a plastic crucifix into a glass of his own urine and photographed it in 1987 under the title Piss Christ, he said he was making a statement on the misuse of religion.

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.

So what do we make of this? My first reaction was, "aww, that's a shame." Still, I sense there's more to it.

Clearly the work was meant as an insult, but is destroying the expression of an insult the way to go? It's a tough question, especially since I recently was deploring the way political opponents shout people down in Madison. How should one react?

I would say this:  we certainly shouldn't hold sacred an object that was designed to be blasphemous, but at the same time I'd have preferred either of two alternatives have happened:

1) We continue to talk about such things and make our displeasure clear, without resorting to destruction; or

2) The better option -- we do a better job of ignoring such sophomoric provocations when they happen, because doing so robs the provocateur of his power.

What say you?


Douglas said...

I'm glad you are writing about this.

I am not blessed by the actions of the Christians in Avignon.

Instapundit has been writing about this for some time, focusing on the perverse incentive structure that has been put in place in Europe. Muslims who react with violence to affronts to their religion are rewarded by the affront being taken away. One could argue that it was merely a matter of time before members of other religions responded in a similar fashion.

I still don't like it. It doesn't doesn't represent Christ well, in my opinion.

Bike Bubba said...

Maybe take away his NEA grants? Maybe shut down the NEA altogether?

Seriously, I wonder how much of this stuff would even EXIST without government funding allowing artists to disconnect getting paid from actually making something that someone wants to see. The NEA accomplishes that.

W.B. Picklesworth said...

Destroying someone else's property is wrong. Full Stop.

Anonymous said...

It the artist had done the same thing with something related to Allah or Mohammad, he and his art wouldn't be around to debate such a topic.

Where I grew up, I was taught that two wrongs don't make a right. I think what we see here is two events that are most definitely wrong (Making the "art" in the first place, and subsequently destroyting it).

Gino said...

"The gallery director, Eric M├ęzil, said it would reopen with the destroyed works on show "so people can see what barbarians can do".

they've ben showing us barbarians can do all along.

Mr. D said...

Five different perspectives, all good. Thank you!

Douglas, I agree entirely. It doesn't represent Christ well. We are called to be better than that, but we are sinners. Which explains but does not justify such actions.

Bubba, I'm all for shutting down the NEA irrespective of who gets its grants, but subsidizing Serrano is especially galling.

Full stop is right, WBP. Sorry if I gave anyone the impression that I sanction destruction of property, even highly offensive property.

The Muslim comparison is apt, anon. It's also why I find artists like Serrano so tiresome -- there's no real danger in taunting Christians, especially in America. It's self-congratulatory.

Gino - heh!

Brad Carlson said...

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I find it hard to be outraged over the parodying of my Lord and Savior, much less portray myself as a victim of bigotry.

If one merely examines the life of Jesus Himself, one would ascertain He suffered betrayal and physical beatings far beyond a human being's comprehension. And His words during his final hours still resonate to this day: "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." And as history reminds us, Jesus had the ultimate victory three days later!

We've already won, so Option 2 is indeed spot on.