Saturday, April 4, 2020
 

Why Did the Associated Press Remove ‘Piss Christ’?


Andres Serrano, "Piss Christ," 1987.

Andres Serrano, “Piss Christ,” 1987.

Politico’s Dylan Byers reported this Wednesday that the Associated Press has removed an image of Andres Serrano’s 1987 photograph “Piss Christ” from its image library following Wednesday’s attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

The photo has been replaced on the AP’s website with a note that reads, “Oops! This image is not part of your portfolio. Please contact customer support.”

If in fact the AP did remove Serrano’s work for fear of retaliation against the AP, this is certainly understandable, but it also sends an alarming message that self-censorship and self-policing are the only way to counter presumed threats.

If threats of physical violence are all it takes to shut expression down, and if all we can expect from now on are responses similar to the AP’s, then where does this leave artists and art institutions? Or perhaps the better question is, what do artists and art institutions do about this? To me, this is a call to artists, not just cartoon artists, to act and react. There is much theoretical talk in Leftist artist circles about how conservativism, censorship, religion, and the art market are ruining art and self-expression. If so, this is the time for artists to put those books down and focus on countering oppressive forces and their steadfast attempt at silencing speech and expression.

If artists want to be taken seriously (once again), they must act in a serious manner and protect expression of all kinds, and whether they support the nature of the content or not. As we well-know by now, Voltaire said it best, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”

UPDATE: 1/9/2015 12:02pm EST

We just received word that the AP did in fact remove “Piss Christ” in an attempt to “not promote hate speech and to be even-handed.”

“We also became aware that a 25-year-old image of the controversial ‘Piss Christ’ photo was among the photos there, and removed it. Of course, every removal is a judgment call, and we took some flak over the decision on ‘Piss Christ.’”

Wonderful. Political correctness strikes again.

 

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