Apr 16, 2010

Uncovering the Cross: Research on Andres Serrano's seminal work "Piss Christ"

In an effort to form an understanding of the controversial work "Piss Christ" (1987) by Andreas Serano - a photograph of a crucifix submerged in the artist's urine, a hot topic for most of my life - I decided I needed to go to the source rather than reading cometary by spectators, or guessing at his intent.

I found the sources below to be more satisfactory compared to the cloud of reactionary propaganda...

I would like to state that the opinions below are that of the authors, and that I am merely providing this information as a survey for discussion at this point, rather than making any statements, myself.


Excerpt from an interview between Coco Fusco and Andres Serrano regarding the work "Piss Christ": [full text]

Andres Serrano: I have always felt that my work is religious, not sacrilegious. I would say that there are many individuals in the Church who appreciate it and who do not have a problem with it. The best place for Piss Christ is in a church. In fact, I recently had a show in Marseilles in an actual church that also functions as an exhibition space, and the work looked great there. I think if the Vatican is smart, someday they'll collect my work.

Coco Fusco: Does your interest in Catholicism have to do more with an attraction to the iconography or is it about wanting to make a social or political comment about what the Church represents?

AS: Look at my apartment. I am drawn to the symbols of the Church. I like the aesthetics of the Church. I like Church furniture. I like going to Church for aesthetic reasons, rather than spiritual ones. In my work, I explore my own Catholic obsessions. An artist is nothing without his or her obsessions, and I have mine. One of the things that always bothered me was the fundamentalist labeling of my work as "anti-Christian bigotry." As a former Catholic, and as someone who even today is not opposed to being called a Christian, I felt I had every right to use the symbols of the Church and resented being told not to.

CF: At the same time you have expressed concern about the Church's position on many contemporary issues.

AS: I am drawn to Christ but I have real problems with the Catholic Church. I don't go out of my way to be critical of the Church in my work, because I think that I make icons worthy of the Church. Oftentimes we love the thing we hate and vice versa. Unfortunately, the Church's position on most contemporary issues makes it hard to take them seriously.

CF: So you do see yourself carrying on a tradition of religious art?

AS: Absolutely. I am not a heretic. I like to believe that rather than destroy icons, I make new ones.


Comments on the artist's work by the United States Senate, and discussion questions.


Interview excerpt with Sister Wendy Beckett and Bill Moyers

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