Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Bible: Open, Interactive, Defaced

From the London Times:

A publicly funded exhibition is encouraging people to deface the Bible in the name of art — and visitors have responded with abuse and obscenity.

The show includes a video of a woman ripping pages from the Bible and stuffing them into her bra, knickers and mouth.

The open Bible is a central part of Made in God’s Image, an exhibition at the Gallery of Modern Art (Goma) in Glasgow. By the book is a container of pens and a notice saying: “If you feel you have been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it.”

The exhibit, Untitled 2009, was proposed by the Metropolitan Community Church, which said that the idea was to reclaim the Bible as a sacred text. But to the horror of many Christians, including the community church, visitors have daubed its pages with comments such as “This is all sexist pish, so disregard it all.” A contributor wrote on the first page of Genesis: “I am Bi, Female & Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this."


The exhibition has been created by the artists Anthony Schrag and David Malone, in association with organisations representing gay Christians and Muslims. Mr Schrag, the gallery’s artist in residence, said that he did not believe in God, but that his research for the £7,000 show had underlined his respect for people of faith.

The community church, which celebrates “racial, cultural, linguistic, sexual, gender and theological diversity”, had suggested the “interactive” Bible and pens and Mr Schrag, 34, said he had been intrigued.

“Any offensive things that have been written are not the point of the work,” he said. “It was an open gesture. Are those who say they are upset offended by the things that people write, or just by the very notion that someone should write on a Bible?”

The artist, a Canadian who took a master’s degree at Glasgow School of Art, said that human rights were at the centre of the show. “If we are to open up the Bible for discussion, surely we have to invite people to speak out,” he said. “Art allows us to discuss difficult things, and Goma allows difficult discussions to take place — that is why Glasgow is at the cutting edge of contemporary art.”

Jane Clarke, a minister of the community church, said she regretted the insults that had appeared. “The Bible should never be used like that. It was our intention to reclaim it as a sacred text,” she said. While the exhibition’s supporters insist that the exhibit promotes “inclusivity” and should break down barriers between orthodox religion and gay and transgendered people, most contributors have paid scant regard to matters of sexuality.

One writer has altered the first line of the Old Testament from “In the beginning God created Heaven and Earth” to “In the beginning, God (me) I created religion.” Another has written “The Gospel According to Luke Skywalker”. The main sentiment, however, is rage at Christianity. “F*** the Bible”, one message says.


A video by Roxanne Claxton forms a second element in the exhibition. It shows a young woman ripping pages out of the Bible and stuffing them in her knickers and bra, and in her mouth. The film showed “the word as power”, Mr Schrag said. “Roxanne gave a performance where she ate a Bible and it became part of her.”

Made in God’s Image is part of a series of exhibitions focusing on human rights organised by Culture and Sport Glasgow, part of the city council. The division’s chief executive is Dr Bridget McConnell, wife of the former Labour First Minister Jack McConnell.

Church officials (from different groups--the Kirk, Catholic Church, etc.) have, of course, condemned the exhibit.


Jared Calaway said...

I thought the ingestion part was an interesting take on the Eucharist, consuming the word or Word of God. Otherwise, much of it seems simply juvenile.

I saw one of the comments on the article saw it as a symbol of free speech--maybe so--but that does not make all free speech sensible.

I write in my biblical texts all the time (it is how I best engage or interact with writing), but to make notes as I do any other text and not to make comments such as these.

I know the shock value is that it is a sacred text to many, but I would not do this to my copy of the Iliad either.

Tim said...

The people who allowed such a deliberately sacrilegious and provocative event to take place are little more than brainless morons.

This so called exhibition is an utter disgrace. I note the reference to 'Human Rights', what of the rights of Christians who wish to practice their faith without having to endure humiliation and ridicule?

Imagine the response if the 'artist' had decided to allow a Koran to be defaced?

Surely it would be far more constructive for such exhibitions to encourage mutual respect between all religious traditions rather than mindless ignorant iconoclasm!