Friday, 31 August 2007

Offensive Art?

The meaning of some art is ambiguous. The Blake Prize for religious artwork was settled on yesterday while two pieces of art from there caused a little bit of a stir (it may also have being a slow news day). There was a statue of Mary in a burqa and a holographic picture of Osama bin Laden that turned into a picture of Jesus (see pictures I stole from SMH).

The artist of the hologram said it was about "...what would happen to the stories about this man [Osama bin Laden] over thousands of years. Could that possibly lead to someone with a cult-like status." Isn't the idea that Osama could get a cult-like following insulting to Muslims? Why aren't they up in arms about this? Maybe because the meaning is unclear and the artist is happy for people to pull different meanings from the work and not defend the actual meaning of their own work, they said: is a very loaded work which means that there are so many different meanings.

... I could actually be saying it is a juxtaposition of good and evil which I see as the base level reading of that work. But then on a more sophisticated level you could perhaps look how it could be an image which is a cautionary tale, asking the question do we have to be a little bit more careful about what we focus on in the here and now. (taken from this article)

If your going to make a statement, wouldn't you want people to understand what that statement is and not just let people make up their own minds of what the content it? The hologram could be saying Jesus and Osama are the same, or it could be contrasting them against each other. To allow people to draw out whatever meaning for themselves is to reduce the art to nothingness.

If you want more info, Hack did a story on it here (I'm assuming what the mp3 link will be when they post it) and here is a longer telegraph story.


  1. Another example of the chocolate statue of Jesus earlier in the year. You make a good point &rew about art - if it's about expressing yourself, it should be clear to the viewer what you're expressing. I have another comment though. Artists seem to be quite willing to push the boundaries when it comes to Jesus, or other figures in the Christian faith, but they don't seem as bold when it comes to Mohammed. The Muslim world seems to be much more...protective of their leader, than Christians do of theirs. Is this a fair assessment?

  2. Hey Tiger,

    In the SMH article where I stole those pictures from there was a good quote from Robert Forsyth (Anglican bishop of South Sydney)

    "Christians are not about to go and kill people because someone did some cartoons - it's not the way we respond"

    That was quite a pointed remark at Islam but also Hack asked the same question to I think the United Church guy who was running to competition.

    I think the quote is true, you can say what you like about Jesus and Christianity and the strongest thing that you will get is some uptight Christians upset at you and maybe some harsh comments.

    I think Christianity gets "picked on" in our media more that Muhammad does in Islamic media's. Maybe because apparently we are in a Christian nation (our country may have some Christian heritage) and we have great freedoms in our country. In one sense our culture has some form of Christianity or Jesus is embedded in it so it's easier for society to understand the remarks or to see what boundary is actually being pushed.

    Since we have such freedoms there is no fear of punishment and you may even get more publicity.

  3. Art is always unclear as to its origins. Think blue poles, a jopke of a painting worth so much for no apparrent reason.

    The art community is a drug induced comatic disorder, but thats my opinion