Saturday, August 22, 2009

Sitting on the Offensive

Does this image offend anyone? If I was to play with it digitally, though, and perhaps substitute a cute piglet for the "holy infant," would I invoke the wrath of Catholics and risk litigation?

I'm a little peeved because of a message that I received over on my Ragzedge blog this morning, concerning an image I'd digitally altered as an artwork. The message is as follows:
"This is a Hindu Goddess. I would like to caution you that if Hindus come to know about this, they can take you to court for insulting their religious sentiments. In India many painters have been prosecuted for doing such things."
Now, I am not peeved at the gentleman from India who provided this caution. I am, in fact, grateful to him and for his good intentions and concern. What I am annoyed about is the dictatorial, restrictive, close-minded, bigoted ignorance of those who seek to censor artistic expression and interpretation of the world in any way that differs from their own narrow-minded precepts.
What about my freedom of expression? Do I not live in a democracy?
It seems to me that there are so many people in the world just looking to take offense. Being offended is what makes them tick, gets their hearts pumping, gives them something to talk about, complain about, be loud and agressive over, and get all sorts of attention and inappropriate sympathy. If one is looking to be offended, one is sure to succeed in finding something before the day is out.

At any rate, I removed any tongue-in-cheek text I'd written and further altered my images, hopefully without completely eradicating the idea and FUN I was trying to communicate. Quite frankly, it pissed me off to do so (am I allow to say the "p" word on my blog?).
Drat--I guess I got sucked into taking offence.
Peace & Love, babies, Peace & Love!

Here is the "offending" image.


  1. A couple of years ago I went to a church to lighten a candle, after doing so (and paying money for it) a person came over and asked of which faith I am, in fact, what kind of christian I am. Being able to reply in her language, said, that to my believe, there's only one kind of. No,no, that's not true, she said, as put me candle out.
    Guess it was already too late, as my thoughts were already put into its flame, which burned for enough time.
    Studying Theology for a couple of years now, lead me closer to the wish of creating a faith, which does not have any categories, nor names or anything alike, probably called humanity.
    Well, just hope that you stay safe, whatever you are up to.
    Please have a nice new week.

  2. Thank you, Robert, for telling me about that ridiculous encounter you had in the church! Religions are closed clubs and if you don't play by their rules, you're not one of them, so bye-bye! When we first moved to this village, a neighbour advised me that if I didn't go to church I wouldn't be part of the community. She said it was okay for me to go to their Baptist Church, once she'd found out that I'm not a Catholic. I don't go to church, though. I don't belong to a religion. I'll belong to yours, maybe, if you start one! Could we eat mandala cookies as part of our rituals?

  3. Let me know if you get sued. I would love to hear the arguments of anyone claiming intellectual property in Christ's image.

    Your question is a difficult one because what an artist places before us is an expression of something that comes from within. I know my reaction to what I see and hear but I cannot be certain that this is what the artist hoped to convey or, indeed, if any "message" was intended at all.

    I prefer art without polemic. Honest and thoughtful work will necessarily raise questions; sometimes it may offend. There is a relationship between the artist and his or her audience and few relationships proceed without there ever being some disagreement.

    That having been said, I have known some who consider the chosen role of artist as a license to attack, provoke and offend, to show others how wrong their ideas are. I find these persons to be as distastefully arrogant as religious extremists who believe that they have been mandated by their God to change my way of thinking.

    If you maintain your artistic integrity and know in your heart that no insult is intended, I hope you are not too quick to compromise even when offense is taken.

  4. FCW, I hoped you would weigh in on this one! You would, indeed, be the first person I'd call if I got sued. However, if I were to go ahead at this point and paint a Madonna with Piglet, my heart would no longer be pure in intention and I could be accused of seeking to provoke or insult! So I guess I'll let that one go...though it is tempting!

    I agree with your statement that the viewer brings his or her own interpretion of and reaction to a work of art. Such response is generally regardless of the artist's intention if, indeed, there is one, which is not always the case. Is an artist supposed to be responsible for how every viewer might interpret the work?

    Personally, I do not seek to provoke hostility or any kind of negativity with my art. That is absolutely not my intention. Yes, there are others whose purpose is just that and, like you, I am not interested in these individuals or their work. I'm not going to look at it, but I'm also not about to tell them they can't do it.

    Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of this "situation" is that it is highly unlikely that a person of the Hindu faith would even come across my little blog, or necessarily react with extreme offense to it. It is basically one person's experience and advice being proferred, to which I reacted by altering a piece of digital art I'd made. I did so because I saw the possiblility of an extremist group throwing their merde in the direction of my fan and decided, in this instance, to pull the plug before it hit. Less messy that way.

    But I am taking very much to heart your caution to not be too quick to compromise in future instances when offense (may) be taken.

  5. There was a big hoo haa over here a few years back, an artist had placed a condom over a ceramic Virgin Mary. I have no idea what it was meant to be but you can imagine the church reaction!

  6. I tried the link you supplied but Wikipedia refused to cough up the goods, asking me if I meant "Virgin in a Condominium"! Ha ha! Too funny. I found an article about it elsewhere, though.

    Now that is not what I'd consider art and it was obviously done deliberately to provoke outrage, at which it succeeded. Generated good publicity (no such thing as bad publicity) for the new art gallery in Wellington, which is perhaps why the gallery bothered with it in the first place, and stuck to their guns in leaving it up, thus fanning the flames of protest--and ongoing publicity. Not as dumb as they looked!

    As to the condomed statue's "meaning"--something to do with the immaculate conception?

    So what's the drink du jour, Saj? A bloody Mary?!

  7. I guess they got the publicity, and no mistake! Haven't got round to the tipple yet, can you believe it but my boss made me WORK today! The cheek of it!

  8. What? You mean you make the tipple at work?!

  9. No-one notices I'm sure! :-)

  10. Dear Lynne, so sorry to hear this... and share your feelings totally. I'm sick of hearing about people being offended by other people's opinions or expressions, they should stop whining... (and as Saj would probably recommend... they should stop whining and start wining) Hard to believe that Salman Rushdie is still under a death threat for having written his books. And that the Bamyan buddhas were really blown up. Etc, etc, ad nauseum... I get very intolerant when the subject turns to intolerant religions... just got back from vacation today, hopefully will be back up to speed soon... take care ! And continue to blaspheme freely, religions should learn how to take a joke...

  11. Right on! Sense of humour--don't leave home without it!

  12. Hey Lynne!
    Instead of a piglet why don't you do a cute little Minotaur?!
    Hmmm... I wonder if that would be less sacrilegious than piggy???

  13. Well now, Jaqueline, a minotaur would be just plain weird! I love it! Sounds more appropriate for an assemblage, which I believe you have some experience...

  14. Yes,I'm a fenced, and I don't take a fence easily.