Anglican Samizdat

July 23, 2009

Defacing the Bible as Art

Filed under: Art,Christianity — David Jenkins @ 9:13 am
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It was only a matter of time, I suppose, before the bankrupt wreckage that passes for art in today’s culture came up with a newly minted piece of drivel like this:Add an Image

An art exhibition where people are encouraged to write in a Bible has seen visitors daub abuse and obscenities across its pages.

Part of Made in God’s Image, the exhibit also includes a video of a woman ripping pages from the Bible and stuffing them into her bra, knickers and mouth.

Next to the copy of the Bible at the Gallery of Modern Art (Goma) in Glasgow is a container of pens and a notice, which says: ‘If you feel you have been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it.’

The taxpayer subsidised Goma Gallery also features a gay pornography exhibit intended to combat homophobia; the theory appears to be that a display of the grotesque is the path to social acceptance.

Undoubtedly the organisers of this nonsense see it as a courageous statement. It isn’t of, course: if they wanted to do something courageous they would deface a Koran.


June 10, 2009

Body Language

Filed under: Art,The fall of the West — David Jenkins @ 5:31 pm
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When my parents died – my mother about 8 years after my father – looking on their lifeless bodies reminded me of a derelict house that had once been filled with a family:  furniture, toys, decorations may still be present as a reminder of happier times, but the living occupants have vacated the premises. So it is with a corpse; the person has gone. I appreciated the respect the funeral directors showed to my parents’ earthly remains since I saw it as a token of respect for the people that they once were; but I felt no particular need for indulging the contemporary obsession of prettifying the corpses for later inspection by all and sundry in an open coffin – as if to give the appearance of cheating death.

My father’s grave is in the UK and my mother’s ashes were scattered on lake Ontario where she used to live in Canada, so I can’t make occasional pilgrimages to their graves. Even if I could, I wouldn’t, since nothing of the real people I knew remains; I hope to meet them again in the resurrection when they will have new bodies.

So although I don’t think there is anything intrinsically sacred about a corpse, I am, nevertheless, all for burying or burning the dead and not doing this:

A controversial German anatomy artist is facing protests over his latest plastination exhibition after unveiling a work showing two corpses having sexual intercourse. Gunther von Hagens, whose latest exhibition, Cycle of Life, opens in Berlin tomorrow, has defended the exhibit saying that it combines the two greatest taboos of sex and death and is a lesson in biology, but is “not meant to be sexually stimulating”.

I think there are a number of things wrong with von Hagens’ contorted cadavers: it mocks the people who were once a part of the body; there is no conceivable reason for doing it other than to shock; it degrades the prurient spectator; as art, it is pretentious rubbish.

I am against censorship, but if someone burned or buried these abominations as an act of free artistic expression, I would have no regrets.

May 15, 2009

It may be rubbish, but is it art?

Filed under: Art — David Jenkins @ 11:54 pm

A record album is being covered up in UK supermarkets. The author of this Guardian article is at pains to point out that the painting could be interpreted in many ways; perish the thought of the painter intending to convey anything specific by it.

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The impact the Manic Street Preachers album cover has made raises the interesting possibility that hand-made, painterly images now have more power to shock than conceptual artworks.

It’s hard to imagine the chain of decisions that led to Jenny Saville’s painting of a boy’s face in colours that vary from olive green to reddish brown, blue and black, being judged too offensive to go on public view. The painting can apparently be interpreted to show blood on the boy’s face – although as the band rightly point out, this is a subjective view. He might have crimson scars and battered lips; or these might just be the colours Saville has used to evoke the appearance of flesh. The whites and creams, the blues of his eyes, are just as shocking.

The author of the article goes on to explain what it means to him; one would expect no less than an interpretation that includes psychic hurt. After all, most modern art induces psychic hurt.

For me this is a painting of psychic hurt, a portrait of pain. In that sense it is truly troubling – but to see it crudely as an image of a child who has been hit (which must be the supermarkets’ view) is to impose your own subjective interpretation. Paint creates uncertainty. It is genuinely impossible to know if those red marks are bloody scars or expressive smears. In the end, what has caused offence is the intrusion of emotion and artistic depth into the temples of commercial banality.

We are left with the predictable jibe at what has supposedly caused offence. The problem is, the writer of this article blames the supermarkets for having a subjective opinion which has been “imposed” on the art, while at the same time having his own subjective opinion, also, one assumes, “imposed” on the art.

If art is to be valued entirely subjectively, an art critic can scarcely complain if people find it subjectively offensive and respond by covering it up.

April 30, 2009

Muddled Obama messianic art

Filed under: Art,Christianity — David Jenkins @ 8:41 am
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Obama does it all: tears the veil of the temple, stretches out his arms as if on a cross and wears a crown of thorns:

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On his 100th day in office, President Obama will be “crowned” in messianic imagery at New York City’s Union Square.

Artist Michael D’Antuono’s painting “The Truth” – featuring Obama with his arms outstretched and wearing a crown of thorns upon his head – will be unveiled on April 29 at the Square’s South Plaza.

Like others in the news who have depicted Obama in Christ-like imagery, D’Antuono insists he isn’t claiming the man is Messiah, but only inviting “individual interpretations.”

“‘The Truth,’ like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder,” claims the exhibit’s press release.

Aside from the intrinsic absurdity of the painting, “The Truth”, the last sentence identifies Obama more with Pontius Pilate than the Messiah: one of the perils of a biblically illiterate artist attempting to paint Messianic pictures.

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