Michael Flaherty

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Piss Venus

2008
Framed Digital Photographic Print
80x105cm

A parody of Andreas Serrano's infamous Piss Christ, this image replaces the crucifix with the Venus of Willendorf. Much as the crucifix is a fundamental icon of Christianity, the Venus is an object of reverence within the secular fields of art history and anthropology - indeed it usually makes an appearance within the first few pages of any comprehensive book on those subjects. Not surprisingly, my treatment of the Venus of Willendorf (immersing it in a jar of my own urine for a staged photograph) never once ellicted the same outrage that Piss Christ did. I take this as a demonstration that it is not the object of reverence itself whose mistreatment dictates a reaction, but rather the audience's predisposition that does. Art practitioners expect their icons to be subverted while religious adherents expect total unconditional respect for theirs. In other words, the controversy of the Piss Christ lies not within the art object itself, but within the audience that denounced it.