Friday, August 31, 2007

Religion & Politics vs Artistic Freedom or Bin Laden as Jesus

In the 56 years since it was first awarded, the Blake Prize for Religious Art, In Sydney Australia, has not been noted for controversy. But this year's entries for the coveted £6,000 award have caused a chorus of outrage from Christians and Muslims alike. They include a portrait of Osama Bin Laden which, viewed from an angle, morphs into an image of Christ. And just for good measure there is a figure of the Virgin Mary, hands clasped in prayer, with an Islamic burqa concealing her upper body apart from the eyes.
While such exhibits might merely cause raised eyebrows if entered for Britain's always-controversial Turner Prize, the decision to place them on show at the National Art School in Sydney has caused deep upset in Australia, whose 20million population is predominantly Christian.
"The choice of such artwork is gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians," said Prime Minister John Howard. And Labour Opposition leader Kevin Rudd said: "I accept people can have artistic freedom, but I find this painting off, off in the extreme. I understand how people would be offended by it." Glynis Quinlan, spokesman for the Australian Christian Lobby, said: "It's really unfortunate that people take liberties with the Christian faith that they wouldn't dare take with other religions." She described the Bin Laden/Jesus picture as a "big mistake", adding: "Jesus brought a message of love and forgiveness that has nothing to do with terrorism."
Sydney artist Luke Sullivan, creator of the Virgin Mary entry, entitled "The Fourth Secret of Fatima", said his work was intended to pose the question of what was the future of religion.
Queensland lawyer Priscilla Bracks, who painted the Bin Laden portrait entitled "Bearded Orientals: Making the Empire Cross", said it was not meant to compare Jesus to the terror leader but was a commentary on the way Bin Laden had been treated in the media. She was concerned, she said, that Bin Laden would be unintentionally glorified in years to come.

In an astonishing defence, the chairman of the Blake Society, the Rev Rod Pattenden, denied that they were likely to cause harm because "the Christian community doesn't look at art a great deal". (!?)

As always, politicians being politicians. If a controversial subject is on the table (religion, gay weddings, abortion) it's always safer to play conservative and guarantee future votes.
The Blake Prize @ The National Art School in Sydney, via The Daily Mail.

1 comment:

Frank Grimes said...

Christiane Amanpour just did a special for CNN called God's Warriors and Muslims killed a famous artist in Amsterdam for making an artistic statement. Also, on YouTube an actor playing a character named Moneyhouse made general humorous remarks about religions and questioned whether or not Islam was violent to which he got Muslims sending death threats.