Aug 29, 2007

seeing Jesus in Osama

The image:

As the viewer moves from side to side, the image changes from Jesus to Osama bin Laden.

The artist's explanation:
"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...

What I was thinking about is, well, what would happen to the stories about this man over thousands of years. Could that possibly lead to someone with a cult-like status....

Immediately people are seizing on what they see as the most controversial, that I am comparing the two....

But I could actually be saying it is a juxtaposition of good and evil which I see as the base level reading of that work. But then on a more sophisticated level you could perhaps look how it could be an image which is a cautionary tale, asking the question do we have to be a little bit more careful about what we focus on in the here and now."
The outraged response:
The Prime Minister Johns Howard has branded the work "gratuitously offensive" to Christians.
If the art work is "saying" that Jesus is morally equivalent to Osama Bin Laden--like the moron who declared Jesus to be history's first suicide bomber--then yes, it's offensive.

But is that its message?

What I find most fascinating about this controversy is how quickly people control the interpretation, deciding exactly what it means despite the artist's stated intent. We are natural "reader response" theorists. What it means is what it means to me.

Consider, though, an alternate, plausible interpretation of the artwork. "Love your enemies," said Jesus. "Pray for those who persecute you." Such sentiment led believers like Mother Teresa to enjoin Christians to "see Jesus in all, and to be Jesus to all."

Can a Christian see Jesus in Osama bin Laden? If that were the intent of the artwork, would its image still be "gratuitously offensive?"

[via Andrew Bolt via Instapundit]

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