Piss Christ, 1989

I'm actually not mad at Christmas this year, but that doesn't stop me from talking about Andres Serrano's Piss Christ this holiday season.

In 1987 artist Andres Serrano apparently put a crucifix in a jar of his own pee and took a picture of it. At first since the photograph only hit the art scene, it was actually well received, but by the time it re-exhibited in 1989 word had gotten around, and a ton of people were super pissed. Especially because the project was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts and he got about $20,000.00 (of tax payer funding) for the work when it was all said and done. 

But in the endowment's defense, the parameters of the funding explicitly stated that content would not be controlled. Regardless, the artist received death threats and lost his funding as a result of the adverse reaction.  

To me "shock value" art is super dated, but in the 1980s through the 90s, it was huge and much needed. Anyway, Serrano claims he was not intending to shock anyone or to make a political statement by creating the work. Instead he wanted to leave its meaning ambiguous. But of course, whether he meant to or not, many people took the piece as a religious attack.

But who's to say he even put the crucifix in a jar of pee? That liquid could be anything. And even if it was pee, I don't see putting "Christ" in a jar of pee any less offensive than using "Christ" to rationalize racism. Both appeals to Christ are so far removed from Jesus as a person or the religion at this point, that they're almost one in the same.

Courtney Cady ©Bagtazo 2015