Friday, April 03, 2009

An Old Man Teaches in Jazz

Piss Christ.Image via Wikipedia

By which I mean only that I have accumulated too much in my head over the years and lost enough faith that I know what is wise and what isn't, what has use and what doesn't, that my teaching is (oh in more ways than one) kind of like whale song, done in the moment for the joy of it, trusting to the sense of it and not always as embarrassed as I might be at leaving the kids to find the sense of it.

Yesterday in my review class, as we talked of the How, the If, the Must of meaning in the visual arts, it came to me to talk of the Piss Christ, which I really hadn't thought of in years and never knew quite what to think about it.

So today -- chasing my own lecture, as it were -- I'm emailing a PC picture to the kids and and some critiques. And then I stumble on this poem, from Slate.

And I like this poem very much.

If we did not know it was cow's blood and urine,
if we did not know that Serrano had for weeks
hoarded his urine in a plastic vat,
if we did not know the cross was gimcrack plastic,
we would assume it was too beautiful.
We would assume it was the resurrection,
glory, Christ transformed to light by light
because the blood and urine burn like a halo,
and light, as always, light makes it beautiful.

We are born between the urine and the feces,
Augustine says, and so was Christ, if there was a Christ,
skidding into this world as we do
on a tide of blood and urine. Blood, feces, urine—
what the fallen world is made of, and what we make.
He peed, ejaculated, shat, wept, bled—
bled under Pontius Pilate, and I assume
the mutilated god, the criminal,
humiliated god, voided himself
on the cross and the blood and urine smeared his legs
and he ascended bodily unto heaven,
and on the third day he rose into glory, which
is what we see here, the Piss Christ in glowing blood:
the whole irreducible point of the faith,
God thrown in human waste, submerged and shining.

We have grown used to beauty without horror.

We have grown used to useless beauty.

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