Monday, April 07, 2008

Erotic Jesus sparks art debate in Austria

They knew it would be risky to exhibit a homoerotic version of Christ's Last Supper, but curators at museum of Vienna's Roman Catholic Cathedral weren't ready for a barrage of angry messages and calls to be shut down.
The source of the dispute, which Austrian media has dubbed Vienna's version of the Mohammad caricature row, is a retrospective honoring Austria's cherished artist Alfred Hrdlicka, who turned 80 earlier this year.
But not everyone has been wishing Hrdlicka a Happy Birthday. And the Cathedral Museum's director and Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, the archbishop of Vienna, have both come under fire from some museum visitors and Catholic websites.
The Church hastily removed the main picture, "a homosexual orgy" of the Apostles as Hrdlicka describes it.
But the protest has continued, much to the surprise of the small Cathedral Museum which is nestled down a narrow street in Vienna's historic Gothic quarter.
The museum's director defends both Hrdlicka's work and his decision to host the artist's controversial versions of biblical imagery in a museum tied to the Catholic Church.
"We think Hrdlicka is entitled to represent people in this carnal, drastic way," Bernhard Boehler said in his small museum office, across the street from Vienna's imposing St. Stephan's Cathedral.
He said the museum never intended to offend people but that art should be allowed to provoke a debate.
"I don't see any blasphemy here," he said, gesturing at a Crucifixion picture showing a soldier simultaneously beating Jesus and holding his genitals. "People can imagine what they want to."
Boehler says that picture drew particular criticism from some visitors, along with a sculpture of Jesus on the cross without a face or loincloth that some Christians found offensive.
But the most disputed work was 'Leonardo's Last Supper, restored by Pier Paolo Pasolini' which showed cavorting Apostles sprawling over the dining table and masturbating each other.
Hrdlicka says he represented the men in this way because there are no women in the Da Vinci painting which inspired it. Pasolini was a controversial Italian filmmaker and writer who was murdered in the 1970s.
The exhibition has attracted fierce criticism on religion blogs in Austria, Germany and even in the United States, with bloggers denouncing it with terms such as "blasphemy" and "desecration."
"The exhibition should never have taken place. The Director should apologize to Catholics worldwide for this," an article on conservative Catholic website said.
In the United States, conservative columnist Rod Dreher wrote on his widely read religion blog "I wouldn't have guessed that, given his reputation, a man like (Cardinal) Schoenborn would have stood for this abomination for half a second."
The museum took down the Last Supper piece at Cardinal Schoenborn's request just over a week after the 'Religion, Flesh and Power' exhibition opened, leaving a blank black wall at the entrance to the display.
"This has nothing to do with censorship, rather corresponds with the understood "reverence for the sacred," the Cardinal's spokesman said in a statement.
"It is also an act of respect towards those believers who feel this portrayal offended and provoked them in their deepest religious sensitivity."
The diocese says the museum's decision to show Hrdlicka's work does not mean it identifies with everything it portrays.
Hrdlicka agrees but points out that the Last Supper piece was not intended as a swipe at the Catholic Church.
"There was such a reaction to its physicality. For me it was quite surprising the museum wanted to show the piece in the first place," he told Reuters by telephone.
"If the Cathedral Museum is having problems now, it's not really my affair, it's for the Cathedral Museum to deal with." He said overall he was pleased with the display and praised the director for being "strong".
A communist and atheist, Hrdlicka has said the Bible is the most thrilling book he has ever read and that religious imagery forms a central core to his work.
Boehler says the angry emails he has received remind him of how some reacted to Mel Gibson's 2004 film "The Passion of The Christ". In his opinion, critics of the film's violence and physicality also missed the point.
"The Crucifixion was brutal and it would be a lie to say everything in our world is nice," he said, pointing out that Hrdlicka is an anti-war activist who has seen the effects of Nazism and violence first hand.
"We in Europe have been affected by this and it influences how we see (Hrdlicka's) work."
Boehler, like Hrdlicka, says the art debate can be compared to the Danish cartoon row, where an image of the Prophet Mohammad with a bomb in his turban enraged some in the Muslim world who saw it as blasphemous.
The angry reaction to Hrdlicka's work has only been verbal and the museum says some Christians have been balanced and support the exhibition, despite disagreeing with the artist's approach.
Curator Martina Judt said the exhibition was meant to prompt this kind of balanced reaction. The museum wanted to show that controversial works inspired by religious imagery can be discussed without taboo.
"People have said the Catholic Church has become a lot more liberal," she said. "But in the end, the reactions show this perhaps isn't the case."
(Editing by Paul Casciato)


George said...

Just gobsmacked! What can you say? That the artist is a dysfunctional anti-Catholic degenerate is one thing, but Church authorities allowing this into a Catholic Cathedral is sickening. Again, just like Tony Blair in the pulpit of Westminster Cathedral this obscenity of 'artwork' is 'the abomination in the place where it ought not to be'.

With all these things taking place one wonders how close to hand is the Apocalypse we have been warned of by St John. How much longer can Our Blessed Mother stay the hand of her Son - who offered Himself unto death for our redemption, only to be scorned, mocked and villified by those He came into the world to save.

It all just makes you want to weep!

Physiocrat said...

This kind of thing sounds distasteful and certainly no Cathedral museum should be promoting it. But no Austrian flags are going to be burnt.

Some "artists" will stop at nothing to get attention, and the real trouble is people give it

Volpius Leonius said...

Someone should be punished for this disgrace if there is any justice.

Words cannot express how furious I am right now after reading that, I am going to pray to God to take swift vengeance on those responsible.

"But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea." Matthew 18:6

Volpius Leonius said...

Indeed henry isn't our tolerance of evil so wonderful, even when it is found within the Church herself nothing is done about it.

That Cathredral is desecrated.

Can. 1211 Sacred places are violated by gravely injurious actions done in them with scandal to the faithful, actions which, in the judgment of the local ordinary, are so grave and contrary to the holiness of the place that it is not permitted to carry on worship in them until the damage is repaired by a penitential rite according to the norm of the liturgical books.

Volpius Leonius said...

This would never have happened if Captain Daniels had been in charge.

Adulio said...

In saner times, there would have been a deliberation over whether to hang the artist and the person in charge of the museum.

Volpius Leonius said...

update: Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has issued a statement defending the decision to host an art exhibit featuring homo-erotic images of Christ and the apostles at the Vienna cathedral's museum.

What is wrong with these sick people and how did they get to be made Cardinal's?

James M said...

Cardinal Schönborn's statement says: "From the point of view of committed Christians, certain of his works must quite clearly be rejected. I obviously would not have agreed to have blasphemous or pornographic works exhibited. I therefore explicitly regret that a work of this kind was exhibited without my knowledge. I ordered the particular work - which committed believers find deeply distressing - to be removed on 20 March.

"Nevertheless, I still hold the opinion that we must welcome the fact that artists who do not share our faith, or are still searching for belief, occupy themselves so intensively with biblical subjects."

[Personally I wish he had made a more urgent apology and a stronger condemnation of sacrilege...but we should certainly not think that the Cardinal knew what was coming or approved of it.]

Volpius Leonius said...

Is he sacking the person who did approve it then?

Is he going to perform the penitential rite required by Canon Law before any further worship takes place at the Cathedral?

Here is the rest of what the cardinal said:

"In some of (the pictures) he oversteps the essential threshold of respect for the sacred,"

That's a nice way of referring to blasphemy isn't it?

But he also defended Hrdlicka as one of Austria's most notable living artists...

"Hrdlicka...probably more than any other living artist, has devoted himself to the suffering and downtrodden human being and has appealed for "compassion" with the "Passion," he said.

So it's ok for him to draw blasphemous pictures because he is a humanist.

The museum has said it did not set out to offend people but has defended Hrdlicka's work and the decision to display the controversial versions of biblical imagery.

The museum director, Bernhard Boehler has previously said "We think Hrdlicka is entitled to represent people in this carnal, drastic way,"

He also said the museum never intended to offend people but that art should be allowed to provoke a debate.

So clearly he knew some people would feel strongly about the pictures in advance and was hoping to provoke a reaction.

This is further borne out by the words of one of the curators, Martina Judt who said the exhibition was meant to prompt this kind of balanced reaction.

So clearly the museum is lying they knew full well it would cause a strong reaction and that is given as the reason they allowed them to be displayed.

"I still hold the opinion that we must welcome the fact that artists who do not share our faith, or are still searching for belief, occupy themselves so intensively with biblical subjects," he said.

So according to the Cardinal we should actually welcome artists who mock Christ and the Apostles by drawing pictures of them committing homosexual acts. The idea been that we should be grateful they actually get a mention at all.

The Cardinal should admit he has failed in his duty and apologise, not make lame excuses which is what he has done. He should sack the museum director who allowed this to take place and in so doing has let the Cardinal down and offended all Christians and also Christ and the Apostles and he should say the penitential rite in reparation to God for the grave offence caused by this appalling blasphemy been committed in a Cathedral, God's very own house.

There are such things as sins of omission you know, saying you forgot or were to busy to protect God's Cathedral from blasphemy just isn't good enough from a Prince of the Church, he clearly is an admirer of this drawer of pornographic pictures which is even more disturbing.

George said...

volpius leonius is right. I would go further - sack 'em all and jail the 'so-called' artist under the filth, obscenity and religious 'blasphemy' laws. Oh these only exist for muslims???? Well that's new to me (like heck!)

warthpublishinginc said...

Jesus said: "When I return will I find anyone with faith."

The Lord’s descent into the underworld

At Matins/the Office of Readings on Holy Saturday the Church gives us this 'ancient homily', I find it incredibly moving, it is abou...