Here’s one of the blasphemous art works…
Very soon, the court will announce a verdict in the case of Yuri Samodurov and Andrei Yerofeyev, who organised the exhibition “Forbidden Art” in 2007. It won’t nail things down definitively. It won’t justify anything… even more so. The controversy is not over whether the verdict will affect Marat Gelman’s planned exhibition, “Forbidden Art – 2010”. The court has to decide what protects society and the state… is it only individuals, or, it is it something apart from them, is it a set of values that is supraindividual? Oh, the humanity! Again, let’s face the question squarely… shall we have radiant humanism or are we going back into the darkness? However, it’s not a bad thing that Russia is able to ask such questions. We are asking what has ultimate value… on the one hand, is it man as the sum of all things; or, on the other, is it the sign of the sacred? Secular humanism doesn’t pose such questions. Does the tomb of the deceased contain a living person? It’s a sign in its purest form. What about a coat of arms, a flag, or a national anthem? What about a memorial to victims of repression? The law protects them without reference to humanism. It avoids the secular/sacred dichotomy, which apart from man, is meaningless.
However, let’s try to find a logical loophole for our unbelieving friends. If people say something using symbols, should we not respect their choice? Here’s a picture of their dead mother… shall we not agree not to use it in a porno show? We have already mentioned the coat of arms, the flag, and the anthem. By the way, such a value is not universal… for some it has a meaning, but others don’t care. Why then can they not defend something that is dear to believers, even if, as atheists, it doesn’t matter to them?
Whether this protection should be part of the criminal code, one can disagree. However, legally, it’s spelled out, and spelled out very clearly… “To be punished by a fine for insulting the religious feelings of citizens, or, the desecration of their sacred objects, symbols, and ideological emblems” (Article 5.26, Code on Administrative Violations). That is, one can’t defile another’s objects and symbols. That goes for artists and journalists, for sectarians and anti-sectarians. You can’t do it at the Sakharov Centre, on a fence, or in a parish house. It’s not allowed… that goes for everybody.
Actually, it’s no accident that the controversy surrounding the exhibition is so emotional. This dispute is a political dispute about power. After all, if some signs such as flags and memorials to the repressed are protected, whilst others, such as icons, are not, it means that the latter has no value, then, the ideology and community they represent have no value. Of course, believers would never accept such an approach. They have the same right to participate in the development of standards as do atheists and agnostics.
Thus, shall it lead to a confrontation? No, not necessarily. After all, we can talk to each other not only in the courts or on the field of conflict; we can meet one on one, as friends to friends. We talked at the exhibition Valaam/Dialogue, whilst we found that we actually had the ability to engage in dialogue, all too often, there were nothing but more monologues. Moreover, we should not only discuss this exhibition… we should have a debate about our values and about their legal status… it’s much more interesting.
Here’s something more important. After all, it’s no longer possible to force acceptance of one system of values. No matter how many provocateurs cause a ruckus, hoping for the support of the cops or the “people”, the usual cast of suspects will still have to sit down and come to an agreement. We’ll have to discuss changes in the law, in its philosophy, and its foundations.
Will there be a “Forbidden Art – 2010?” It probably will take place. Soon enough, apparently, the organizers of such exhibitions shall provoke us yet again. However, shall they be bold enough to include items using the symbols of other religions? Or, ridicule the victims of totalitarianism? Or, the fall of a prominent mafia boss? Do you think that they would refuse to do it? As of now… they would have to… otherwise, you would either have to forget about Samodurov’s promise to repeat his feat (подвиг), or acknowledge his closed mind and cowardice.
7 July 2010
Head of the MP Synodal Division for Church and Public Relations
As quoted in Interfax-Religion
Here’s another one of their “freedom of speech” items… reflect well… both US “liberals” and “neocons” support those who create such crud… what DOES America stand for, anyway? The sign reads (roughly), “Give more for the Plan!”
One should note that Fr Vsevolod did not write this is in a “churchly” venue, he wrote it in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, which is one of the more “liberal” news outlets in Russia. Fr Vsevolod is not alone. Besides the clergy who write in the secular press, many secular journalists cover the Church beat. None of them write in that cramped and prunish style known as “churchly”… it’s like the To Vima guys in Greece exposing a crook land deal on the Mountain… there’s nothing sinful in pouring light on the dark. It’s like the crowd at KP bringing some of Dmitri Banditsky’s accomplices to justice… those crank clergy are now guests of the Russian government… thanks to the lot at KP.
In short, we should emulate Fr Vsevolod and enter the fray! We should be happy warriors like Deacon Andrei Kuraev! We should be like Metropolitan Irinei, who stood next to Yuri Shevchuk on the rock stage, and challenged all comers to join the army of Orthodox missionaries. Let’s hang out with Aleksandr the Surgeon and the Night Wolves as they ease on down the road! To keep it short, let’s keep it REAL… not “churchly”… not “for the good of the Church”… but for the good of Christ and His Church. Otherwise, you KNOW whom they serve… and I know that you know what I mean. Don’t forget… the foulest flowers of evil grow in the shadow of the altar and some of Lucifer’s Best wear riassas.
It’s time for good hierarchs, clergy, monastics, and laity to pick themselves up and start the journey to the Promised Land. We won’t see it… but we can start. But we have to take that first step…