Religion, or pornography?

A lot of religious art has a pornographic quality to it. Baby Moses in the bulrushes, with various naked females. Jesus being taken down from the cross, naked and very languid. And, of course, the activities of the Greek and Roman gods…

Derek Santini's "Leda and the Swan"

Santini layers a series of still photos onto ribbed plastic sheeting that creates a hologram-like effect as the viewer passes.

Photographer Derek Santini’s studies of Leda and the Swan made news recently when a London bobby on a bus spotted obscenity inside the Scream art gallery and had the offending work taken down on the spot.

But the problem here was that the policeman wasn’t educated enough to recognize the classical religious reference. Better to stay with the stories that even the cops know.

Next up for Santini… how about that story of the Virgin Mary getting pregnant?

4 comments on “Religion, or pornography?

  1. teunispeters says:

    Sacred things frequently have to do with what makes us human, and that includes all of this. Pornography is profane, art and celebration are sacred. Finding the line – that’s the trick. What makes pornography profane though is two things: 1. history of being called profane by a specific religion. 2. no mystery. (because the same religious groups don’t like such mysteries to exist). And the very concepts ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’ are complicated because they touch on deep perceptions. The two concepts can’t exist apart but are rather difficult to explain, without using religious references of some kind.

    I suppose if I were to define sacred, it would be that which contains some kind of mystery – possibilities beyond what is visible. Hope is one key, but as are many other “imaginary” things, such as justice, trust, mercy, duty. Life and death are also, to some extent, “imaginary”.
    And for profane: that which denies any or all of the above.

    After that thought – because I know something of the stories the above animation speaks, I see it as art – as a reflection of something sacred.

    I would describe calling it “pornography” as a profane statement though.


    • But Teunis… what if pornography is part of what makes us human? Hm?


      • teunispeters says:

        Just like being rude is being human. Hatred, disgust and being disgusting are all human. Wanting to destroy others because they’re not “yours” is human. Doesn’t make any of that list nice.
        “pornography” itself is an empty concept, just a declaration that something is empty of worth or celebration. I suppose if something encourages someone to think of someone else as not being human, it could be described as pornographic.
        Arbitrarily marking entire bodies of work as “pornographic” though is more a vision into the way a culture degrades things it doesn’t like, not a statement of validity/invalidity.


        • Teunis, I agree that a lot of what is human is disgusting, offensive, etc. In one sense, all of that is “sacred”, if it’s all driven by the same force. In my view that force is (prosaically) evolution, or (artistically) the search for knowledge and understanding.

          The words “sacred” and “profane” have a suggestive meaning, but nothing that can actually be defined objectively. They are poetic words and concepts, not scientific ones.

          They have their place, but they’re nothing to get excited about.


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