October 6, 2005

Offensive art.

Russian style:
A top Moscow gallery bowed to religious sensibilities and pulled an exhibit that combined two potent symbols of Russia -- a gold icon and black caviar -- local media reported on Thursday.

Churchgoers had appealed to the state Tretyakov gallery, objecting to "Icon-Caviar", which depicts hundreds of tiny fish eggs where the face should be on an icon, saying it was trivial and insulting.

The artist, Alexander Kosolapov, told Ekho Moskvy radio that his work was in no way religious: "The icon frame -- that's a metaphor for Russia. The caviar, that's also a metaphor."

Ha! We think it's offensive if you use an offensive material to depict the sacred image. But if you had to argue that it's worse to use caviar than to use elephant dung, couldn't you?


Steve Lewis said...

The Icon is a symbol for Russia? Who is he kidding? The Icon is a symbol of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Icon is a valued symbol even outside of Russia.

It sounds to me that he changed it to "Russia" in his mind after everyone got so mad.

Troy said...

Gee I wonder what would happen if I used a material offensive to native Zimbabweans to create an iimage of whatever deity(ies) they worship?

I blame Duchamp for this -- and the critics who were and are too cowed to decry this kind of junk.

aidan maconachy said...

I'm not sure what artistic purpose it serves when artists deliberately degrade religious and/or patriotic symbols. I'm sure they can provide all sorts of rationales ... but that's hardly the point. A lot of people find this stuff offensive, because they happen to take the icons and personages being mocked very seriously.

Not so long ago Madame Tussauds in London (the waxworks museum) staged a Christian nativity scene with wax replicas of the soccer player David Beckham and his wife Victoria (ex of Spice Girls fame) taking the roles of Jesus' parents. A law lecturer attacked the exhibit in a rage.

Frankly, I think it's outrageous that Tussauds took this liberty with a scene considered sacred to many. It's an insult to Christians. Just imagine a similar exhibition in Cairo featuring David Beckham and Victoria Spicerama as the parents of Mohammad ... all hell would break loose. Tussauds would likely have been burnt to the ground and its staff made the target of fatwahs.

I understand the "statements" artists are trying to make with this but the larger issue, over and above their right of expression ... is the fact that they are trampling over ground that is sacred to many and created a deliberate act of sacrilege.

Yet more salvos from the godless secularists.

I think I will do a painting of Che Guevara with elephant dung ... or possibly pig manure.

Jack Roy said...

Well, in certain African cultural traditions (including, if I'm getting this right, the one where the artist in Brooklyn was from), cow dung was a symbol of veneration, so... yeah, I think I could. Assuming caviar has no similar connotations.

The trickier question would be: Assuming some New York politician was choosing to be wilfully blind to any cultural implications outside his own, could you shake him of his convictions?

NDC said...

I'm not 100% sure of this, but wasn't part of the dung artist's problem, the fact the little flowery looking things floating around the image of Mary are cut outs from porn magazines? Seriously, the elephant dung was only a small part of the problem.

Right? Am I remembering this right? Is it weird that it's passed off today as being a controversy about materials?