Tuesday, February 24, 2009

It's Offensive! I Swear!

In a conversation with one of my previous art professors, he mentioned that he hated modern art as well as most of the recent art regardless of style. Art, he said, has denigrated from being a show of skill and craftsmanship to a person simply proclaiming, "Look how clever I am."

While I agree with him on a number of levels, every once in a while that 'cleverness' rocks society to a point of controversy that can't be ignored.

Piss Christ by Andres Serrano

You may or may not have heard of Piss Christ. This is a photograph of Christ being crucified in a jar of the photographer's urine. Surprisingly enough, the urine gives Christ a golden aura. As expected, this piece made a lot of people very pissed (pun intended).

I actually like this piece for several reasons. Firstly, the way people reacted to it was downright hilarious. Piss and Jesus simply don't go together in most people's minds. The idea of Jesus even taking a piss (or a shit) would never cross their minds, regardless of whether or not he ever did it.

But given that Jesus came in human form (even if he was God), we have to assume that he did human things. This does, of course, extend to expelling waste from the body. We know he ate food, so he probably got rid of it as well.

But all that aside, what this piece most profoundly says about our culture is that we think that our waste products are unholy and should never be brought to the forefront of anything, especially religion. To even think about it is labeled vulgar and disturbing.

Another 'offensive' piece of the Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili
Complete with elephant dung and porn cutouts of genitalia
This piece asks similar questions about the subject of holiness

Some other cultures didn't think this way. Many 'uncivilized' cultures believe that our waste products are in fact the most holy, and in some cases used in religious rituals. They wouldn't have a problem with Piss Christ in the way that most Christians do. As a matter of fact they'd put it in a very favorable light.

Some Catholics liked the photograph because it depicted what our generation has done to Jesus. Our generation has ignored Jesus' teachings and went about our own merry way, essentially urinating on his sacrifice. This of course assumes that you believe that urine is unholy.

Couldn't find what the artist said about the work. I think he has left it up to us. A tax-payer funded organization did purchase the work for 15,000 dollars. Maybe that pisses you off, maybe it doesn't. Either way, essentially, you bought it.

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