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Serrano's Jesus in urine exhibit in Derry is beautiful, says MLA

By Donna Deeney

Published 05/10/2016

A photo from the exhibition entitled 'Torture' by Andres Serrano
A photo from the exhibition entitled 'Torture' by Andres Serrano
A photo from the exhibition entitled 'Torture' by Andres Serrano
A photo from the exhibition entitled 'Torture' by Andres Serrano
Serrano's 1987 work 'P*** Christ'
A photo from the exhibition entitled 'Torture' by Andres Serrano
Row: The P*** Christ exhibit

An Assembly member has defended the decision of a gallery to exhibit an image of Christ submerged in urine, which he described as "dazzlingly beautiful".

Foyle MLA Eamonn McCann hit out at critics who lambasted Andres Serrano's P*** Christ, part of an exhibition opening this weekend at the Void gallery in Londonderry, suggesting that they should at least visit the exhibition first.

In 1987, Serrano sparked international controversy with the artwork, igniting debate on the freedom of artistic expression. The piece is going on display at the Void as part of a wider exhibition by the artist called Torture, which includes images inspired by the Hooded Men - a group of 14 men arrested at the height of the Troubles and, according to the European Court of Human Rights, subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Mr McCann, who was chairman of the Void until his election to the Assembly in May, said the gallery should be commended, not condemned, for showing Serrano's work.

But among those who said it was wrong to show the image was Rev Roger Higginson of Coleraine Free Presbyterian Church, who suggested the artist's desire to shock hid a "lack of talent". He also accused the American-born artist of being "cowardly" because he made "a mockery of Christ in a way that they wouldn't if it was Mohammed or the Muslim faith because that would put them in danger."

Mr McCann disagreed strongly with Mr Higginson's sentiments. He argued: "Andres Serrano's P*** Christ is a beautiful, profound and thought-provoking work. The fact that it is being shown in Derry should be a source of satisfaction and even of pride to us all.

"P*** Christ gives us a chance to see the mystery of the world in appropriate perspective. It is an object to lift our hearts. I take it to refer to the way everything sacred is traduced by the effluent of a soulless society.

"There's a thousand other interpretations jostling for attention, each as valid as any other. The piece is also dazzlingly beautiful.

"You don't have to have a religious bone in your body to be moved and uplifted - just an open mind and a willingness to allow the work to speak to you directly."

Torture launches on October 8 at 7.30pm at the Void Gallery

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