Saturday, September 11, 2010

Religous Provocation

God according to Leonard Nimoy

These last few years we have seen a scary trend spreading through the world: the religous provocation in the name of art and/or freedom of speech. I believe that both art and freedom of speech are necessary and important parts of any culture and should be respected. However, it should not be used for the sole purpose of upsetting people and violate another person's beliefs. In some cases, provocation is a positive thing, when used as a means to wake people up and get their attention to something important. But it is one thing to provoke by showing a picture of a starving near-to-death baby in Darfur to get people to react (and hopefully act), and another to show a satire cartoon version of the Prophet Muhammed - for whatever reason, when you know for a fact that every muslim on this planet will be offended and hurt.

It's easiest to bring up examples of religious provocations when it's about Islam, since that's what have cought the media's attention the most lately, but of course this is not a strict anti Islam method.

I believe that everyone has the right to say whatever is on their mind and everyone is entitled to their own opinions and beliefs, but it should never be at someone else's expense. Nothing we say or do should be at someone else's expense really. My wish is that people one day will realize that we all aren't that different from each other. We might practice our religions differently, but most of us believe in the same thing, not matter if we call it God, Allah, Universe, Balance or Gaia. It may sound very flower powery, but if there's one thing that I've learned throughout the few years that I've lived, it is that we're all made from the same material and we're all going to die. The best thing we can do before the end, is to do unto others as you would have others do unto you. It's all quite simple. I don't want you to offend me, so I won't offend you.

And if what I have said so far isn't enough of an argument, then at least think of this: When you choose to provoke, you may do it as one individual, but it will taint the reputation and opinion of the people around you. Just as a muslim suicide bomber gives all muslims a bad reputation, a Swedish artist who portraits Muhammed as a dog gives all Swedes (or non-muslims for that matter) a bad reputation. It creates conflicts that is so far beyond the original attempt to simply provoke. I have gathered a few stories, some bad and some not so bad. I'll leave you to judge which is what:

Religion according to me
- Italian-Canadian artist Cosimo Cavallaro created an anatomically correct chocolate statue of Jesus Christ that was supposed to be exhibited in New York during an Easter and was titled "My Sweet Lord". The exhibition was cancelled after Catholics threatened to kill the artist.

- Swedish artist Lars Vilks depicts Prophet Muhammed as a dog, causing protests and the arrest of an American woman in an alleged plot to kill Vilks. His head is now worth 150,000 USD.

- Russians Andrei Yerofeyev and Yuri Samodurov set up the "Forbidden Art" exhibition in Moscow, featuring a depicition of Jesus Christ with the head of Mickey Mouse among others. The show was condemned from the Russian Orthodox Church and the two men were fined.

- American photographer Andres Serrano created a scandal when he presented "Piss Christ", a photograph of a small plastic crucifix in a glass of the artist's urin. The piece won the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art's "Awards in the Visual Arts" competition - a price which was accompanied by hate mails, death threats and lost grants due to controversy.

- Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten publishes a cartoon series of the Prophet Muhammed as a terrorist, causing the lives of over 30 people in massive protests all over the world. Libya closed its embassy in Copenhagen, Danish and Norwegian embassies were attacked abroad and Iran cut all trade links with Denmark as a protest. I got a call from the Swedish embassy, warning me to publicly say that I'm Swedish. I was at the time working for a small Danish NGO, that had to cover all logos. Our sister organization was shot at. Danish police found a bomb in Copenhagen last Friday, that they suspect was meant for the newspaper.

- Swedish photographer Elisabeth Ohlsson Wahlin presents the exhibition Ecce Homo, which constist of 12 photograpies with modern biblical motives. Her message of rights for homo- and bisexuals are clear in the pictures. The exhibition took place in Uppsala Cathedral, leading to a bomb threat to the church and that the pope at the time, Johannes Paulus II, cancelled a planned audience by the arch bishop K G Hammar.

- American pastor Terry Jones plans to burn the Koran on the anniversary of September 11th. Although cancelled a couple of days before the planned event, protests arise and groups around the states were inspired to do similar acts. In Afghanistan 10,000 people demonstrated and one store got burned to the ground.

- Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh releases a fictional study of abused Muslim women, featuring scenes of almost naked women with texts from the Koran on their flesh. Van Gogh was killed in the street; shot several times and got his throat cut.

People according to me
- Swedish street artist Dan Park makes a pearl swastika and places it with a can with the label "Zyklon B" by the Jewish parish in Malmö. Zyklon B is the name of a gas that was used by the nazis during Worldwar II to gas Jews to death. Park calls the action "brutal humour", Swedish police called it "agitation against an ethnic group".

- British painter Chris Ofili's piece "The Holy Virgin Mary" was decorated with elephant dung and surrounded by a collage of female genitalia from porn magazines. It was shown during an exhibition in New York and was met with massive protests. A lawsuit was started to evict the museum, and a federal lawsuit was filed against the mayor for breach of the First Amendment.


Marianne said...

Du skriver om så viktiga saker! Jag får återkomma i morgon när jag är piggare, och börja läsa tidigare om dagarna hos dig! Jag tänker mycket på sådana här saker!

Marianne said...

SÅ BRA skrivet! Och jag håller fullständigt med dig. Det är ju så lätt, egentligen! Jag förstår inte varför folk ska behöva hålla på att reta varandra och trampa varandra på tårna. Det går alldeles utmärkt att prata om saker och ting, och om man är lite nyfiken och frågar får man ofta svar så att man slipper gå runt och tro en massa saker om "de andra".

Jag undrar om inte de här "konstnärerna" egentligen mest vill väcka uppmärksamhet kring sitt eget namn, snarare än att faktiskt vilja hjälpa "de andra" att få större yttrandefrihet och vad det nu är de skyller på. I fallet med Lars Vilks är jag övertygad om att det är så.

Jag håller just nu på att läsa en bok av Karen Armstrong: Holy War - The Crusades and Their Impact on Today's World. Det är visserligen inte särskilt upplyftande läsning, men den ger många förklaringar till varför det är som det är i dag. Jag tror att du skulle uppskatta den!

Meme said...

Tack Marianne, för att dina fina kommentarer och för att du läser! Jag skriver om det jag tycker är viktigt, och om jag lyckas nå ut till en person, så kan jag somna och veta att jag gjort något gott : )

Jag tror också att det mest handlar om "all uppmärksamhet är bra uppmärksamhet".

Jag ska ta en titt på boken du tipsade om. Är lite av en bokmal så jag tar gärna emot tips! Tack!