This week’s work is entitled Immersion (Piss Christ) and is by the artist Andres Serrano. The work is more usually called just, Piss Christ.
It was created in 1987 and depicts a small plastic crucifix completely submerged in a glass of Serrano’s own urine. It was part of an ongoing project that he was engaged in whereby he would take a classical statuette and immerse it in a fluid, such as milk or blood.
The work was presented to the public in the shape of a 60 X 40 photograph with the colours strongly saturated, thus helping to bring out a rather golden colour. If Serrano had not told us, it is highly unlikely we would even guess what the liquid was.
The reason he did this was, as Serrano said, because he wanted the work to challenge the way in which the icons of Christianity have become so commercialised.
I like this explanation, but, for the sake of Seditious Theology, I think we can make another claim for this work.
As we look around at the history of representations of Christ on the cross they usually do appear sanitized and stripped of any form of historical accuracy. Indeed, some of the greatest representations are notable for their artistic prowess and beauty but not because of their resemblance to the ‘Real Thing’.
Now, I am not saying that all images of Christ on the cross need to be lifelike and accurate – frankly, I doubt we could cope with it – I certainly wouldn’t. But I do think this work takes a gentle step back toward accuracy in a very controlled and artistic way. It provides a small connection back to the world of the crucified covered, as they were, in sweat, spit, blood, vomit, urine, faeces and pretty much any other substance you can think of. We need to be clear, the crucified Christ was essentially a piece of raw meat left to hang and rot.
With this in mind; I think Serrano’s work, helpful as it is in starting to reattach us back to what actually happened, is arguably not shocking enough.