Archive for ‘Osama Bin Ladin and Jesus’

septembrie 2, 2007

Furor over artwork: Burqa-clad Virgin Mary, Jesus morphing into Osama bin Laden

„Bearded Orientals, Making the Empire Cross,” a lenticular image with a portrait of Jesus Christ that transforms into a portrait of Osama bin Laden, is one of several pieces that has drawn controversy to the $15,000 Blake Prize for Religious Art in Australia.
The Jesus-Osama piece, along with a statue of the Virgin Mary wearing a burqa, has fueled a fierce debate Down Under. (Here’s a photo of the portraits.)

„If the work is perceived by some people as not having artistic merit, then that is their right to think however they like about the piece,” artist Priscilla Bracks says according to ABC News of Australia. „But I just ask people to think about it a little bit more deeply because it is a very loaded work which means that there are so many different meanings.”
She says some see juxtaposition of good and evil. Others see a commentary on the deification of bin Laden in parts of the Muslim world. It „concerned the relationship between contemporary popular culture and the future we (for better or worse) create,” she tells The Daily Telegraph .
Interesting fact: Neither of these pieces actually won the prize. An aboriginal artist won for her depiction of the Stations of the Cross. Despite that, the runners-up are attracting more attention than the winner. Here’s a sampling of what critics see:
♦ „The choice of such artwork is gratuitously offensive to the religious beliefs of many Australians,” Prime Minister John Howard said in News Ltd newspapers.
♦ „Jesus brought a message of love and forgiveness that has nothing to do with terrorism,” ACL spokeswoman Glynis Quinlan said. „It’s a concerning thing to Christians to have Jesus and Osama bin Laden as part of the one artwork.
♦ Ikebal Patel, head of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, says the statue isn’t offensive. „So [Mary wearing a burqa is] no different to how our mothers and sisters are expected to be modest in their dressing,” he tells the Sydney Morning Herald. The Osama-Jesus piece is a different story. „You have a revered prophet of Islam being equated to somebody like Osama bin Laden,” Patel says. „Also in Islam, we don’t have any paintings or drawings depicting any of our prophets, so I find it quite offensive.”
(USA Today)

august 31, 2007

Bearded Orientals: Making the Empire Cross

This work is concerned with relationships between contemporary popular culture, and the futures we (for better or for worse) create. It is not intended as a statement but rather as a means to ask questions. In particular, I’m questioning the relationships between media, popular culture, and the development of truth, history and ideology.
When you observe these two people, Osama Bin Ladin and Jesus, their ethics could not be more different. The only comparison that can be made is historical: both pursued by two of the world’s most powerful armies – the US and the Roman armies. Jesus is clearly defined by history, but I am interested in how history will treat the image of Osama.
There is a very real possibility that by giving such significant media attention to those who commit crimes and advocate violence, we may inadvertently elevate of them to a status where in some circles, they are perceived as sacred and holy – revered in the same way we revere Jesus.
This work has quite an open text so people are likely to read the image in many different ways. Some have mentioned they see it as a juxtaposition of good and evil, whilst others are interested in its comment on how iconic figures are created.
To me this work is a cautionary tale about our fixation with crime, violence and catastrophe. Access to information is important and there are instances where this has been well balanced with the temptation to sensationalise. No war was declared against the Lockerby bombers. Instead they were extradited and tried for murder amidst media coverage that left few people with a lingering memory of their names. Similarly, Martin Bryant was moved to an inner cell in his Tasmanian prison to ensure his media attention did not turn him into a cult figure like Charles Manson. There is a wisdom in this approach that has been forgotten in the case of Bin Laden, and this lapse may have unintended, unwelcome effects in the future.
Bearded Orientals: Making the Empire Cross comes from a larger body of work named after the image, called Making the Empire Cross. Each image in the series further considers the relationship between what we read, see and hear in our media, and what we believe or perceive as ‘truth’. The series covers a range of issues from misleading statements about weapons of mass destruction, through to our cultural fascination with violence (for example some works raise the question of whether a tour to a war zone the next extreme adventure holiday trend. Strangely when researching that part of the work I did find one person offering such tours.)
Given the work’s focus, the recent media coverage of it is ironic.
The first tabloid to comment on Bearded Orientals: Making the Empire Cross and its entry into the Blake Prize ran with the headline Christianity is Mocked Again. It then proceeded to present the editor’s personal readings of the artwork as if they were fact not opinion, and impliedly suggested that this is also what the artist truly intended. This opinion soon became fact, and I began to receive emails from concerned people asking how could I do this? Don’t I have any feelings for people who have lost family in terrorist attacks? Why do I criticise a religion that has done nothing to me? My response is to direct these questions to the Daily Telegraph of Sydney for it is they not I who have suggested that Christ and Osama are spiritual equals.
So many of us feel that there is something wrong with waging war in Iraq and the culture of fear, hate and suspicion bred by the ‘War on Terror’, yet few speak out for fear they will be the first to say the emperor wears no clothes. Exhibitions of the work in Brisbane & Melbourne (Australia) and St Tropez (France) have given audiences the opportunity to think about these things and I heard many peoples’ views on what the work means to them, but on no occasion has anyone felt the work compared the spiritual value of the two figures. I can only attribute the difference in readings to the provocative opinions expressed in the Daily Telegraph, which were repeated without question by many news services that subsequently reported on the issue.
The work was entered into the Blake Prize because that prize seeks to encourage debate on spirituality. Recent geo-political events such as the ‘War on Terror’, the war in Iraq and the on-going Israeli/Palistinian conflict, give me cause for concern that spirituality is being confused with other more pragmatic concerns of human existence. If we read the religious texts carefully it is clear that God is on no-one’s side if they advocate violence and choose war over peace.
The elevation of Osama Bin Laden to hero and/or anti-hero in the Christian and Muslim world represents a troubling take on spirituality, and despite what some in the media have said about my image, his status existed before I made the work and was caused not by me but by sensationalist reporting.
The artwork has been effective in generating some debate, but given that the media can set the agenda of the debate, it is not surprising it has not probed more deeply into their role in escalation of violence in our society. Whilst I have no control over the media, I do sincerely wish to apologise for any discomfort my part in this event has caused to people who saw this image in the context of those terrible opinions.
Priscilla Bracks
August 2007.