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Wednesday, 9 April 2008

The carnality of religion; the purpose of art

"Pictures depicting Jesus being fondled and the Apostles groping each other have caused outrage after they were displayed in a museum attached to Vienna's Roman Catholic Cathedral."

That intro from Britain's Daily Telegraph almost says it all.

The most controversial picture in this exhibition entitled Religion, Flesh and Power (a title that is itself pretty expressive), has been taken down after the said outrage. The exhibition is by the sculptor Alfred Hrdlicka, who celebrates his eightieth birthday this year and is fĂȘted all over his native Austria.

Some Catholics have branded some of the pics "blasphemous". But they would say that, wouldn't they?

"Vienna's archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, has now ordered the 'homosexual orgy' picture, entitled Leonardo's Last Supper, to be taken down," says the Telegraph.

Now, this here cardinal says it's nothing to do with censorship, but the picture was removed with "reverence for the sacred". But isn't all censorship done for a reason, sensible or otherwise? Who is to say what is sacred? What is sacred to Schoenborn is clearly not going to be sacred to many others.

Once again, believers in sky fairies want censorship when artists take an unusual look at historical and/or mythological personages, if those personages happen to figure in their own preferred mythology, the one they choose to believe is true.

But this is what art is about. It's about looking at things in a way that isn't literal, so the viewer can see things in a different way. If art stuck literally to facts it wouldn’t be art. It’s meant to go beyond, and present concepts in ways that challenge us and make us think about things in fresh and unusual ways.

The notes accompanying the exhibition say that Hrdlicka's work focuses on the carnality of religion, and on the search for "God as a human experience".

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