A piece of art which depicts a bearded Osama bin Laden transforming into a bearded Jesus Christ has upset two formidable art critics – the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader.
John Howard and Kevin Rudd are quoted in News Limited newspapers this morning complaining about Bearded Orientals: Making the Empire Cross an entry for this year’s Blake Prize for Religious Art.
Once again politicians from both sides of the ideological fence have made silly, superficial pronouncements on a subject which needs thought and reflection.
“One of the things that I was thinking about was the glorification of Osama bin Laden which has been taking place. I mean, he’s seriously glorified in some parts of the world, where he’s revered for the things he’s done,” she said. “What I was thinking about was, ‘well what would happen to the stories about this man over thousands of years, and could that possibly lead to someone with a cult-like status?’.”
Bracks says the piece reflects on how historical figures can be portrayed over time. “There’s so many ways you can read that image,” she said. “You know, immediately people are seizing on what they see as the most controversial – that I’m comparing the two. But I could actually be saying that it’s a juxtaposition of good and evil, which I see as the base level reading of that work. But then on a more sophisticated level you could perhaps look at how it could be an image which is a cautionary tale, asking the question, ‘do we have to be a little bit more careful about what we focus on in the here and now’.”
Bracks says she did not set out to create a provocative piece.
“Absolutely not. No, no,” she said. “I’m not interested in being offensive. I’m interested in having a discussion and asking questions about how we think about our world and what we accept and what we don’t accept. I just ask people to think about it a little bit more deeply because it is a very loaded work, which means that there’s so many different meanings.”
The piece will be on display as part of an exhibition at the National Art School in Sydney.