Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Naked Truth of Religion and Art

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Rodney Pople has caught the attention of the christian communities with his recent exhibition that depicts a combination of religious iconography and sexually explicit art. The art in the exhibit is powerful and stark - using famous works of religious art and church interiors combined with magazine collages of porn. Visually attacking the corruption in society by utilizing imagery such as  women having anal and oral sex, women with legs splayed showing genitalia on altars, as well as an altar boy on the cardinal's lap with genitals partially exposed.

Cardinal with Altar Boy - "in the cardinal's lap - echoing the classic pieta pose of the crucified Messiah - is an altar boy, his genitals partly exposed as he offers his own innocence to the figure of religious authority."
While i have no problem with porn personally, i can't deny that it works well as a symbolic reference to explotation, selling of one's self, as well as getting fucked over by society - figuratively and literally. Pople claims his works aren't religious critiques, which may or may not be true considering the power of religions on society. Some pieces are clearly darts thrown at the catholic church (such as Cardinal and Altar Boy), but given the recent exposure of the church's nasty secrets, it can also be taken in social context.

The outrage of the religious towards art that in any way makes a negative or critical statement is actually pretty fascinating. They behave as though their beliefs will be contaminated by the existence of the art. The outrage is often self defeating since it generally draws the public eye toward whatever they are protesting. I wonder if any of the protesters viewed Pople's exhibition before setting up a prayer vigils outside the gallery or if they protested blindly on what they had "heard" the show was about.

I don't take issue with the religious sects that protest use of their sacred icons in art. It is their right. I do take issue with anyone censoring and demanding that the art may not be shown, thereby trying to dictate what someone like me can view and learn from. The world does not revolve around their singular religious beliefs, as shocking as they might find that. The world is bigger and more diverse than that. Considering the many crimes against humanity that are tied to most, if not all religions, it is only natural that artists - the visual historians and cultural seers of society - should dig down deep into those areas, ripping off the hypocritical facades.

By the way - should you think - well, that's Australia - it has no relevance here... try bringing that show here and see what happens. America is embracing censorship - especially on anything related to religious topics. I wonder if we would even allow the show in the country. After all we have to protect the innocent minds of the population from the naked truth.

relevant links:


billy pilgrim said...

it's hard to think of many religions that are known for tolerance of opposing views.

Thaddeus said...

Thanks so much for this post, pretty worthwhile material.
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