Ecce homo redux


Piss Christ (1987) by Andres Serrano.

If the news of the past few weeks has felt like a re-run of the 1980s—ongoing recession, government cuts, riots in London, Tories casting aspersions on the undeserving poor, the threat of another royal wedding—then add to the list of déjà vu moments a flurry of outrage concerning art and religion in America that’s like a recapitulation of the Helms vs. NEA spats of 1989. On that occasion Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ was in the firing line, accused of being a blasphemous portrayal. This week it’s been the turn of a video installation of a short film made the same year, A Fire in My Belly, by David Wojnarowicz, a work featured in an exhibition I linked to a couple of weeks ago, Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery, Washington DC. A Los Angeles Times piece previewing the exhibition also connected Hide/Seek and the earlier attacks by the right against the NEA, ending by saying “Times and attitudes change”. Well, not always…


A Fire in My Belly (1987) by David Wojnarowicz.

Piss Christ notoriously shows a plastic crucifix immersed in urine; A Fire in My Belly is a 30-minute film which features among its blizzard of images a crucifix besieged by marauding ants. Wojnarowicz’s work wasn’t even mentioned in the LA Times piece but this week’s furore has made it the focus of the entire show after the gallery withdrew the video following protests from the usual suspects, the Catholic League and a right-wing politician, Rep. John Boehner. The complaints are the standard bluster about blasphemy (again) and taxpayers funding “filth”. None of the complainants appear to care that Wojnarowicz’s film is a tribute made by a gay artist to his friends as they were dying from AIDS during the 1980s, a disease which also killed him in 1992, they see the work only as an offensive act. It’s too much to expect anyone reacting with such fervour to consider that the artist may have been comparing the suffering and treatment of people with Aids in that decade with Christ’s suffering on the cross, to do so would be to admit that the artist might have a point. In response to the work’s withdrawal the Transformer Gallery in Washington DC has been screening the film and organised a protest at the National Portrait Gallery. (Update: They also issued an open letter urging the reinstatement of the work.)

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Giant Skeleton and the Chocolate Jesus

No, not a post about a new psychedelic band but two body-oriented artworks in the news.


The giant skeleton by Gino De Dominicis is on display in the Palazzo Reale in Milan. More pictures at the Wooster Collective and also here. Via Towleroad.


Cosimo Cavallaro‘s My Sweet Lord is due to go on display at Manhattan’s Lab Gallery in New York City on Monday but complaints from the usual suspects are giving the gallery second thoughts. More on that here. It’s okay to make any number of Messiahs from wood, stone, metal or plastic, just don’t dare make a Jesus out of anything edible.

Update: the Lab Gallery showing of the edible Jesus has been cancelled.

Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, said the work was a direct assault on Christians. “All those involved are lucky that angry Christians don’t react the way extremist Muslims do when they’re offended.”

Don’t be shy Bill, you know you’re itching to bring back the Inquisition. So Christians are angry are they? Isn’t that one of the Seven Deadly Sins? Another complaint was that Jesus is shown naked, something that we see in plenty of paintings depicting him as a child. Oh well, the artist and gallery owners can feel relieved they weren’t stabbed or shot for their pains and the forces of Righteous Wrath can file into church at the weekend to eat the body of Christ. You know, like they do every Sunday.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Very Hungry God
Gay for God
History of the skull as symbol