Russian art creators fined for "inciting religious hatred"

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A Russian court found two art curators guilty of “inciting religious hatred” for their organizing of an exhibit that featured pieces such as Jesus with a Mickey Mouse head and “a spoof ad for Coca Cola with the slogan ‘This is my blood’ that visitors looked at through peep holes,” according to the BBC.

The complaint against the 2007 show was filed by the Council of the People, an ultra-nationalist Orthodox group. A representative of the group said that such displays of art aren’t art. “Especially if it contains insults, it's no longer art but a provocation," he said.

Hmmm. I’m not an expert by any means on fine art, but I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. In fact, a lot of good art usually is a provocation of some kind. Likewise, the supposed insults toward Christians contained in the exhibition pieces are only being interpreted as such. Andrei Yerofeyev and Yuri Samodurov, the curators, apologized last year in a letter to the head of the Russian Orthodox church. It was not their intent to offend Christians, they said, but to “fight censorship of art in Russia.”

I haven’t seen any of the pieces that received criticism, so my interpretation could be completely off, but the idea of a Mickey Mouse Jesus resonates with me as a biting commentary on the commercialization and Westernization of Christianity. When I think of mega-churches with Starbucks, flat screen TVs, gift shops, and worship services that are well-attended for their entertainment value, it’s not a very big jump to imagine a Mickey Mouse Jesus at the center of all this.

Even if this wasn’t the artist’s intent with this piece, it’s not an interpretation that wouldn’t be worth discussing. But, according the representative from the Council of the People, that discussion shouldn’t take place in public. "If you like expressing yourself freely, do it at home, invite some close friends,” he said.