Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Christ is Pissed, Again (Is “Piss Christ” a profoundly theological work of art?)
Religious Dispatches ^ | 09/27/2012 | By HOLLIS PHELPS

Posted on 09/27/2012 8:30:26 PM PDT by SeekAndFind

Twenty-five years later, and an artwork's power to enflame is undiminished.

Beginning on the 27th of this month, the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery in Manhattan will open an exhibit titled Body and Spirit: Andres Serrano 1987-2012. The exhibit, which runs for a month, features a range of works from the controversial artist, including the infamous Piss Christ (1987), a work that consists of a photograph of a plastic crucifix submerged in what is supposedly a jar of the artist's own urine. The gallery's press release describes the work in the following terms:

Piss Christ is a potent work that engages the viewer on both a visual and intellectual level. Unassumingly and with no intention, it has also served as an unwitting lightning rod in media and politics, challenging the values, perception, and definition of art. Piss Christ, ultimately, has turned into a controversial symbol of the freedom of expression and the ability of art to catalyze significant change in society.

It’s of course a bit disingenuous to claim that Piss Christ is an “unwitting lightning rod” in the cultural landscape. Serrano himself has noted that the work is "meant to question the whole notion of what is acceptable and unacceptable," and, let's face it, anyone who deliberately submerges a crucifix in urine for public display does so well aware of the outrage that it may cause.

In 1989 right-wing Christian senators, including Jesse Helms, attacked the work, and it was vandalized in 1997 while on display in Australia at the National Gallery of Victoria. Just last year a group Roman Catholic fundamentalists, bent on an anti-blasphemy campaign, took hammers to Piss Christ in Avignon.

Innocence of Christians

Tomorrow’s exhibition of the work has already drawn criticism from religious leaders and politicians. Bill Donohue, self-styled spokesman for conservative Catholicism, has denounced the exhibition on the grounds that “decent people know it is unacceptable.” For Donohue, Piss Christ and its exhibition make perfectly clear the bias of the liberal elite, for whom “anti-Christian art is not only acceptable, it is laudatory.” Protests and press conferences to follow.

Other affronted parties have invoked comparisons to the decidedly unartistic “Innocence of Muslims,” the now-blockbuster YouTube trailer that triggered protest in Libya and Egypt.

Commenting to Fox News, Staten Island Representative Michael Grimm has called the work a “deplorable piece,” one that is as “offensive” to Christians as ‘Innocence of Muslims’ is to “the Islamic world.” Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the comparison has provided opportunity to emphasize the supposed moral high ground that Christians occupy over Muslims when it comes to material deemed offensive or blasphemous. Tony Perkins, president of the Family Council, told Fox News that the two incidents shore up “the contrast between Islam and Christianity.” “You don’t have to plead with Christians not to riot and burn and storm buildings simply because they are offended,” Perkins said. “That’s the difference. That’s why Christianity moves nations forward and Islam moves nation backwards.”

Although the Times’ Nicholas Kristof has taken a seemingly more measured approach, he still stresses that Piss Christ has not incited violence among Christians. Indeed, even though Kristof takes the tense political situations in Northern Africa and the Middle East into account in evaluating responses to “Innocence of Muslims,” he still finds it necessary to emphasize that, “for a self-described ‘religion of peace,’ Islam does claim a lot of lives.”

Never mind Christianity’s less-than-stellar track record with regard to violence, or the fact that Piss Christ has actually been subject to violent attacks in the past. A crucial difference between “Innocence of Muslims” and Piss Christ is that the former is deliberately and unambiguously offensive—though to recognize as much is by no means to condone violence.

The issue is not so clear with Piss Christ. The irony is that once we work through the initial shock value of Piss Christ, the image is, in many ways, profoundly Christian, a point that is completely lost in the simplistic and literalistic responses of its vocal detractors. According to The Guardian, Serrano himself has claimed that the photograph should be taken as criticism of the “billion-dollar Christ-for-profit industry” and a “condemnation of those who abuse the teaching of Christ for their own ignoble ends.”

It could be that the failure of critics to recognize as much indicates that Serrano’s criticism hits a little too close to home. Behind the immediate criticism of the work is a theological point, as well. The central claim of Christianity is that, in the incarnation, God became fully human, just like us. I remember buying diapers for my wife’s grandfather in the days leading up to his death. Like countless others facing their demise, he had, at the end of his life, lost the ability to control even the most simplest of bodily functions. If we cannot imagine a urine-soaked cross, then perhaps we have not really understood what it means when Christians claim that God became human. Perhaps Serrano has understood it more than his pious detractors.


TOPICS:
KEYWORDS: andresserrano; art; pisschrist


1 posted on 09/27/2012 8:30:35 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

Obama and Hillary will be paying $70,000 to air apology commercials in the New York area.


2 posted on 09/27/2012 8:34:37 PM PDT by TigerClaws
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: TigerClaws

I am waiting for the Piss Mohammad-—and the Piss Buddha—


3 posted on 09/27/2012 8:45:01 PM PDT by Forward the Light Brigade (Into the Jaws of H*ll)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: TigerClaws

I have an idea for an art project. A public art display.

Wouldn’t it be artistic to visit the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery in Manhattan and urinate on the floor of the art gallery.

Perhaps with many other people, as a flash mob scene.


4 posted on 09/27/2012 8:46:25 PM PDT by gunsequalfreedom (Conservative is not a label of convenience. It is a guide to your actions.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: TigerClaws

I have an idea for an art project. A public art display.

Wouldn’t it be artistic to visit the Edward Tyler Nahem Gallery in Manhattan and urinate on the floor of the art gallery.

Perhaps with many other people, as a flash mob scene.


5 posted on 09/27/2012 8:46:35 PM PDT by gunsequalfreedom (Conservative is not a label of convenience. It is a guide to your actions.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind
Serrano himself has claimed that the photograph should be taken as criticism of the “billion-dollar Christ-for-profit industry”...

I take it as a celebration of the "billion-dollar defame-Christ-for-profit" industry.

6 posted on 09/27/2012 8:46:45 PM PDT by randog (Tap into America!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: gunsequalfreedom

Brilliant.


7 posted on 09/27/2012 8:47:59 PM PDT by randog (Tap into America!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

AFK for a bit. Have to find an embassy to storm.


8 posted on 09/27/2012 8:49:07 PM PDT by andyk (I have sworn...eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Forward the Light Brigade

Well isn’t this interesting. You can join the museum’s mailing list.

http://www.edwardtylernahemfineart.com/gallery/

Nice way to deliver a message in the form field boxes on their sign up form.

Your Name:
UR Disgusting

Email Address:
pissonthis@hateondisplay.com


9 posted on 09/27/2012 8:53:01 PM PDT by gunsequalfreedom (Conservative is not a label of convenience. It is a guide to your actions.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: randog

I never understand the liberal criteria for viewing issues.

In the case of Piss Christ, liberals tell us we have to be tolerant ,etc. and that it doesn’t matter if Christians are deeply offended. We’re lectured about freedom of speech and other issues if Christians find offense at Piss Christ.

But in the case of the stupid Mohammed video or Mohammed comics, we’re supposed to bend over backwards to show that we have deep respect and reverence for the beliefs of another religion. We’re supposed to bend over backwards to avoid offending adherents of a certain religion. In such cases, issues of freedom of speech are said not to matter. It’s all about avoiding offending someone’s religious beliefs.

So which is it liberals? Are we permitted virtually unlimited freedom of speech so that we can offend religion, or not?? Are we supposed to avoid offending religion, or not? What are the criteria????


10 posted on 09/27/2012 8:58:19 PM PDT by Dilbert San Diego
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: randog

There may be a glitch in the urinating on the museum floor as art idea. Their website says that are not presently accepting artists submissions.

If I lived close enough to this museum I’d deliver the art anyhow.

Perhaps as a charitable contribution to aspiring artists we could provide a grant to cover the cost of the art project.

What would the website name be...

pissontheflooroftheEdwardTylerNahemFineArtMuseum.com


11 posted on 09/27/2012 8:59:41 PM PDT by gunsequalfreedom (Conservative is not a label of convenience. It is a guide to your actions.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: randog
You are certainly free to take it as the celebration you mention but by doing so you clearly ignore the stated intent of the artist. When you substitute the artists intent for a manufactured one you choose to be offended.

Sister Wendy Beckett, a world famed art critic and a Carmelite nun, gave the work a fantastic and thought provoking critique that you might look up.

12 posted on 09/27/2012 9:01:46 PM PDT by texanred
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind
It is vile, and even the attempt at an explanation is absurd.

That said, look at it artistically: he took a crucifix and pi**ed on it in a jar. Do I have that right? Where is the artistic ability behind the creator of the “artwork” being shown? That he can aim straight?

What if it was a bar of soap in a jar he pi**ed in? Artistic? Artistically pleasing? Intellectually stimulating? No, a stupid idea. He only got any attention because all of the non religious nut jobs gave him money from the NEA to denigrate Christianity. And how much money did he need to create this “genius” work? $5? He would have failed a community college art class with this abomination.

13 posted on 09/27/2012 9:11:04 PM PDT by MacMattico
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Dilbert San Diego
Most leftists are using a dangerously out of date worldview that says that one can engage in more risky communications with insiders than outsiders.

My neighbor that I've enjoyed good relations with for 10 years makes French jokes and I make Mormon jokes. He would never do so in French Canada and I would never do so at a gathering of Mormons that I was unfamiliar with. Neither of us has the level of familiarity with these strangers that would permit that.

However, there's also a sense that one should bend over backwards to avoid offending strangers - particularly in high profile international situations.

All of this ignores the reality of instant communication and almost costless replication of information. The stranger is no longer safely geographically far away. They are, as it were, staring in our window and making judgments about now tidy we keep our homes.

14 posted on 09/27/2012 9:13:21 PM PDT by texanred
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

this is not newsworthy


15 posted on 09/27/2012 9:16:36 PM PDT by Fester Chugabrew (ABO to the core.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: texanred
The "artist" (self so-called) can babble all he likes.

Excrement is excrement.


16 posted on 09/27/2012 9:23:55 PM PDT by ArrogantBustard (Western Civilization is Aborting, Buggering, and Contracepting itself out of existence.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: texanred

thoughtful remarks on your part. uncommon these days. are you french? is your neighbior mormon? anyway, civility is a good thing. pray for it! thanks. i happen to be of german descent and a deserving recipient of kraut jokes. oh well. this life is not all there is. the Christ, whom some folks would do more than pee on, lives.


17 posted on 09/27/2012 9:24:35 PM PDT by Fester Chugabrew (ABO to the core.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: MacMattico

think of this “artist” as a servile creature. he is not free. you are. let him go. not worth getting wee-weed up over. whatever is pure, whaterever is good. think on these things. fight the good fight. you know that.


18 posted on 09/27/2012 9:28:58 PM PDT by Fester Chugabrew (ABO to the core.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

19 posted on 09/27/2012 9:33:53 PM PDT by fella ("As it was before Noah, so shall it be again")
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

There is - I think - a point to be made here. Piss Christ is not necessarily a profound theological work, but it can be used to illustrate a point that did not enter into the artist’s mind when he was making it.

To my chagrin, the thought I am about to present is not necessarily mine originally, so I will post the article from which I am taking this: http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/the-mocking-of-muhammad-and-condemning-of-christ

So many people look at their religion and see it as an unassailable monolith which has to be defended. That somehow blowing up cartoonists and buses or ramming planes into buildings is a defense of an omnipotent God.

Instead God has chosen Christ as an object of great humility. He is brought before the authorities and accused and convicted of a crime of which he is innocent. He is beaten, and spit upon and he is sentenced to death. It only follows that the “intellectuals” of our world would also see fit to defile his name, but Christ - like a sheep before its shearers - is silent. He is not haughty or proud. He is a sacrifice and the sins of us all are placed upon him and he is led up the mountain to die a humiliating death for our sins.

So when this world comes against us and persecutes us and accuses us of all sorts of evil because of him (Matt 5:11), we are in fact blessed for suffering with him. As he was a sacrifice, so we are called to take up our crosses and follow him and die a humiliating death to ourselves. (Matt 16:24)

The wisdom of this world seeks honor, but something that is different about Christianity is the emphasis on humility. This was so important that Paul wrote in his letter to the Galatians (2:20-21):

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”

The truth is that seeking honor, or seeking salvation through works is ultimately fruitless. No amount of religiosity, martyrdom, piety, and generosity can save. The only thing that saves is the grace of God. We do not gain salvation by works, but it is the free gift to all who believe.


20 posted on 09/27/2012 9:44:51 PM PDT by conservative_crusader (The voice of truth, tells me a different story. The voice of truth says do not be afraid.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: texanred
The “clearly” stated intent of the artist was not given until after he received world wide criticism for this work, before that he had stated several different reasons for the piece.

Sister Wendy Beckett's view is that it is a representation of what we have done to Christ today. I'm Catholic but that doesn't mean bringing out one nun that started studying art in her 50’s and is now called a “renowned art critic” changes that Piss Christ is trash. In fact pissing on anything has never seemed to me as representative of anything, it is a literal act with specific meaning.

21 posted on 09/27/2012 9:46:42 PM PDT by MacMattico
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: ArrogantBustard
Just as those cans are now filled with dust, so is the "piss Christ" bottle.

But I bet the crucifix is still in existence.

And it will be 2000 years from now.

22 posted on 09/27/2012 9:57:18 PM PDT by boop (It's not personal...it's strictly business)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind

I don’t think the protestants of 400 years ago would have gotten all upset over the “P!$$ Christ” as they would have just considered it to be a piece of brass in urine, made to rile the Catholics.

I know Protestants today are getting riled over it,yet I just consider it to be a piece of brass in urine. You could submerge a plastic Barbie doll in it and call it the Madonna and some would get upset.

I know the moslems would go berzerk over a Ken doll with a beard representing mohammed in urine.

When you laugh at it and not let it upset you, it looses it’s power to offend and becomes...nothing.

Anyone have a problem posting on this thread? Several times I have hit the “Post Reply” button but it just brings the entire thread up again and not the “Posting Comment” page. It finally did open for me.


23 posted on 09/27/2012 10:01:08 PM PDT by Ruy Dias de Bivar
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Fester Chugabrew

Oh, he is free.


24 posted on 09/27/2012 10:14:08 PM PDT by MacMattico
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 18 | View Replies]

To: Forward the Light Brigade
I am waiting for the Piss Mohammad-— <<

I heard its coming...but the supply of pig urine is scarce...

25 posted on 09/27/2012 11:00:45 PM PDT by M-cubed
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Forward the Light Brigade

You won’t see it. Why? Because terrorism works. You won’t see Hillary Clinton et al condemning this on television. Its amazing what a difference a propensity for murder, bombing and rioting will get you.


26 posted on 09/28/2012 2:45:00 AM PDT by sinsofsolarempirefan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: SeekAndFind
Andres' "art" is mostly scatalogical in nature -- with lots of waste bodily fluids used.

"challenging the values, perception, and definition of art. " --> nope, didn't challenge any of that for me. It's got nothing to do with values -- it's showing Andres' attempt to get shock value. Perception? Nah

Definition of art? Nah -- to me modern "art" isn't art and waste fluids and faesces are not art.

27 posted on 09/28/2012 5:41:01 AM PDT by Cronos (**Marriage is about commitment, cohabitation is about convenience.**)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: gunsequalfreedom

that would be in keeping with Andres’ other “works of art”


28 posted on 09/28/2012 5:53:02 AM PDT by Cronos (**Marriage is about commitment, cohabitation is about convenience.**)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: gunsequalfreedom

actually, don’t do this — you’re giving this “art” the publicity it doesn’t deserve.


29 posted on 09/28/2012 5:54:14 AM PDT by Cronos (**Marriage is about commitment, cohabitation is about convenience.**)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: MacMattico
The clearly stated intent of the artist was given in a written artists statement presented before the work was displayed. This is standard procedure. Did he give other possible interpretations? Yes he did. So do I. “Versatility” and “multivalent” are keywords to having your work shown. Over literalism and single line of interpretation work is generally scrapped as uninteresting.

I didn't trot out Sister Wendy to appease Catholics. I'm a fan of her meditations and spirituality so i reached for her interpretation. There are dozens of other highly religious critics that have tackled it if you consider hers substandard because she started public criticism late in life.

As well - you says it's a literal act with specific meaning. He literally did not urinate on it. The urine was carefully collected and lit a very specific way in an attempt to look beautiful. See above about literalism and single avenue interpretations.

30 posted on 09/28/2012 7:25:31 AM PDT by texanred
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: Fester Chugabrew
I'm French Canadian originally. He calls me Frenchneck or occasionally Frostback. Lol. He's Mormon. Unmarried. I joke about him secretly marrying all the young women he dates.

Christ lives and - even for those who do not believe in him - he manages to shine through the mist and fog of this world and can present himself in glory and beauty. (Sorry for sneaking in another popular interpretation.)

31 posted on 09/28/2012 7:29:18 AM PDT by texanred
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: texanred

“... The urine was carefully collected.” Please... Enough already...


32 posted on 09/28/2012 6:14:11 PM PDT by MacMattico
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 30 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
General/Chat
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson