Posts Tagged “avignon france”

Piss Christ photograph by Andres Serrano (1987)It seems the US is not presently the only place where extreme, militant Christianists can be found. It’s true that, here in the States, militant Christianists are common enough that they can be found inhabiting the halls of power, in Washington DC and in state capitols around the country, while they constitute a “fringe element” in other countries, but they still exist nonetheless. And at times they can make their presence known … violently. Some enraged Christianists attacked the famous (or infamous) “Piss Christ” photograph in Avignon, France, as the (UK) Guardian reports (WebCite cached article):

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. …

For four months, [the Piss Christ photograph] has hung in the exhibition I Believe in Miracles, to mark 10 years of art-dealer Yvon Lambert’s personal collection in his 18th-century mansion gallery in Avignon. The show is due to end next month, but two weeks ago a concerted protest campaign began.

Civitas, a lobby group that says it aims to re-Christianize France, launched an online petition and mobilised other fundamentalist groups. The staunchly conservative archbishop of Vaucluse, Jean-Pierre Cattenoz, called Piss Christ “odious” and said he wanted this “trash” taken off the gallery walls. Last week the gallery complained of “extremist harassment” by fundamentalist Christian groups who wanted the work banned in France. …

But on Palm Sunday morning, four people in sunglasses aged between 18 and 25 entered the exhibition just after it opened at 11am. One took a hammer out of his sock and threatened the guards with it. A guard grabbed another man around the waist but within seconds the group managed to take a hammer to the plexiglass screen and slash the photograph with another sharp object, thought to be a screwdriver or ice-pick. They also smashed another work, which showed the hands of a meditating nun.

Photo from Ecce Homo exhibit by Elisabeth Ohlson WallinThe gallery plans to stay open with the damaged works on display:

The gallery director, Eric Mézil, said it would reopen with the destroyed works on show “so people can see what barbarians can do”. He said there had been a kind of “inquisition” against the art work.

This attack had a political trigger:

In a statement, [Mézil] said the movement against Piss Christ had started at the time of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party’s controversial debate on religion and secularism in France. At a record low in the polls before next year’s presidential election, Sarkozy has been accused of using anti-Muslim and extreme-right rhetoric to appeal to voters and counter the rise of the Front National.

Asked by the daily Libération why the Piss Christ protest had happened now, Mézil pointed to Sarkozy’s speech in March lauding “the Christian heritage of France” at Puy-en-Velay, where the first Crusades were preached.

The French government waffled on the matter:

The French culture minister, Frédéric Mitterrand, condemned the vandalism as an attack on the fundamental freedoms of creation and expression, but recognised that the art work could shock audiences.

Promo for The Last Temptation of Christ, directed by Martin Scorsese.This “we condemn the vandalism but understand it” thing is not really a condemnation. A true condemnation is unconditional and offers the vandals no “out.” It’s is eerily similar to Religious Rightists and various pundits who — a couple years ago — said that, while they condemned the assassination of Dr George Tiller, they “understood” why someone might kill him. Mitterand’s statement, therefore, amounts to nothing more than a “wink-wink nudge-nudge knowwhatimean saynomore” sort of thing. Way to go, Minister. Way to go. Pat the Christianist vandals on their collective backs while at the same time you distance your government from what they did. I am just so fucking impressed by your abject cowardice!

Lastly, just as I do whenever Muslims violently react to the existence of the Jyllands-Posten Mohammad cartoons, I’ve put the “Piss Christ” photo in this post, as well as other images of art that Christians consider blasphemous. Thus I hope to teach them — too — the power of the Streisand effect. When they protest what they dislike, they actually call attention to it and scare up more interest in it than there would have been otherwise. By all means, guys, keep it up. Keep telling us what you think is “blasphemous,” so the rest of us can dig it up and put it out on display again, on the Internet, in thousands more venues than it had been previously.

Hat tip: About Atheism/Agnosticism.

Top photo credit: Andres Serrano via BoingBoing. Second photo: Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin via Amagerica. Third photo: From The Last Temptation of Christ via Scorsesefilms.

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