Emily Esfahani Smith, in a post titled, "Piss Christ, 'Art', and Violence", considers differing reactions to "art" intended to anger adherents of a particular religion:
“Terrible ideas, reprehensible ideas, do not
disappear if you ban them,” Salman Rushdie recently said in relation to
the anti-Muslim video. “They go underground. They acquire a kind of
glamour of taboo. In the harsh light of day, they are out there and,
like vampires, they die in the sunlight.”
culture war over Piss Christ is really a battle of competing egos: the
ego of the artist and the egos of the offended observers. What more
could it be?
Consider, after all, what
Piss Christ is. It is the “aesthetic equivalent of a temper tantrum,”
Rev. George Rutler, a Catholic leader in New York, told me in an
e-mail. “Since Christ survived a crucifixion, Christianity will not be
harmed by some man’s display of his own arrested development,” Rutler
Speaking of arrested
development, among the other works on display at the New York
retrospective are: “Piss Discus,” “Semen and Blood, III” “Madonna on the
Rocks,” and an image of a Playboy bunny. Serrano has all the
sophistication of a man-boy who delights in the filth of his own bodily
fluids. Serrano is like the Charlie Sheen of the art world.
“Sneering at religion is juvenile, symptomatic of a stunted imagination,” writes Camille Paglia, an atheist, in her new book Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars.
She is referring directly to Piss Christ. I interviewed Paglia last
Thursday about her new book at the museum of art in Philadelphia, and
she made the point that religion lies at the heart of all great art. One
of the reasons why the art world is spiritually and intellectually
hollow today, she said, is because it continues to “sneer” at religion
and think, mistakenly, that doing so is still avant-garde. It’s not.
It’s old news.
Read the entire post on the New Criterion blog, "Arma Virumque". To take Paglia's observation a bit further: a vibrant Catholicism will produce or inspire great art. A lukewarm, comfortable Catholicism will produce kitsch and inspire sentimental, mediocre art. A
confused or openly dissenting "Catholicism" will often produce or
inspire "artwork" that is vulgar, infantile, stunted and cynical. "The
function of all art," wrote Pope Pius XII in 1952 ("The Function of
Art"), "lies in fact in breaking through the narrow and torturous
enclosure of the finite, in which man is immersed while living here
below, and in providing a window on the infinite for his hungry soul."
Bad art and blasphemous art is usually either heavily sentimental
(reflecting a shallow happiness) or deeply cynical (indicating a
profound despair), and in both cases it is contrary to what is truly human and truly divine.