Thursday, May 01, 2008

Austria censors gay Last Supper after U.S. pressure

This video of the show was made by Gloria.tv in an effort to condemn it
A homoerotic Last Supper was removed recently from a church-sponsored art exhibit in Austria after protests sparked by U.S. fundamentalists. According to news reports, the museum director blames the artwork’s removal on “massive verbal hostility” from U.S. religious blogs, which then spread to Europe. Fundamentalist blogs denounced the art as “blasphemous,” “trash,” “sacrilege” and “an abomination.” Vienna’s Roman Catholic Cathedral and Diocesan Museum pulled the main picture from a retrospective exhibit by Alfred Hrdlicka, a celebrated Austrian artist who turned 80 this year. Hrdlicka himself described the etching as a “homosexual orgy.” After a week on display, it was taken down at the request of Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn. “The protests mainly came from Christian fundamentalist circles in the United States and eventually spilled over into Germany,” museum director Bernhard Boehler told Reuters. “So it came from people who neither had the knowledge of the seriousness of Alfred Hrdlicka’s work nor had seen the exhibition.” Although some visitors did complain about the art, Boehler said that the decision to remove the art was largely due to the anger expressed on blogs and emails from abroad. Hostility toward gay Jesus art is so common that I wrote a book about it: Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More. But the Hrdlicka case is the first I’ve seen where the U.S. religious right managed to limit freedom of speech abroad. It upsets me to see America exporting religious intolerance. I hope to spread freedom around the world through the Jesus in Love blog, newsletter and website. The rest of the exhibit, titled “Religion, Flesh and Power,” remains on display until May 10 with two other controversial images: A sculpture of Jesus on the cross without a loincloth, and a crucifixion in which a soldier holds Jesus’ genitals while beating him. Hrdlicka is an atheist and anti-war activist and who has personally witnessed the effects of Nazism and violence. Biblical imagery, especially the suffering of Christ, is a central theme in his art. The website Gloria.tv, whose motto is “the more Catholic the better, made a video (above) of the exhibit in an effort to condemn it. If you can't see it above, click here to view it. __________ Kittredge Cherry is a lesbian Christian author, art historian and minister whose books include Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More.

3 comments:

Riverwolf said...

Seems they're more interested in pointing out the "naughty" parts than in trying to understand what the artist was attempting to convey. As usual...

alex said...

I am neither American nor a fundamentalist, but I am gay and Catholic. Still I was shocked that the last supper is 'artfully' depicted as an orgy (gay or otherwise does not matter to me. Incidentally Luis Bunuel had depicted this already in his film Viridiana 0f 1960 - so artist is not original at all) and was sponsored by the Catholic Church. Yes I consider this trashy just like a dead split sheep in ethanol is considered art. Shock at the expense of others...

Rollan McCleary said...

Though the US and its fundamentalists are not the world's most tolerant people in this special case I wouldn't wish to be complimenting Austria as opposed to the US on any tolerance. Just how much Austria can turn a blind eye to almost anything has currently become a subject of national debate there following exposure of the horrific dungeon case.

The simple fact is the artist concerned is an avowed atheist and this particular piece of art marks more than anything else his hostility to religion. Depicting the Last Supper as an orgy is completely unnecessary, even absurd. However you interpret that event it wasn't and couldn't historically be that.

I see no reason to defend this kind of merely abusive depiction. We don't need Islamic style riots over depictions of the prophet but there is a point at which believers have some right to defend their beliefs from a sort of libel upon them and an artist's self indulgent will to shock. It is really astonishing and no compliment to the Austrian church authorities that they didn't take appropriate action to get this kind of art out of church precincts. This is artistic freedom gone crazy and it has nothing spiritual to convey.