If this art gallery invited people to deface the Talmud or the Koran, can you imagine all the whining ?
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 Church of Scotland expressed concern, the Roman Catholic Church called the exhibit infantile, and a Christian lawyers’ group said that the exhibition was symptomatic of a broken and lawless society.
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.
Last night the producers of the exhibition indicated that the most offensive pages would be removed, but Christians expressed outrage and disbelief that the show had been staged at all. “This is symbolic of the state of our broken and lawless society,” said Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre. “We have got to a point where we call the desecration of the Bible modern art. The Bible stands for everything this art does not: for creation, beauty, hope and regeneration.”
The Church of Scotland said it condemned any sacrilegious act. “We would discourage anyone from defacing the Bible,” a Kirk spokesman said.
A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: “One wonders whether the organisers would have been quite as willing to have the Koran defaced.”
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.
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