‘Vatican’ by Daragh Breen


Daragh Breen

In a glass specimen-jar in the Vatican Archives is one of
the blue bottle flies (Calliphora vormitoria), that festered
in Christ’s wounded side as He was taken down from
the Cross. In the catacombs of the fly’s eye is a moon
suspended in darkness. On this sphere is a single, mast-
like Crucifix , at the base of which is a simple white skull.
In the empty right eye socket are the three nails that
rivetted the body to the Cross. In the left socket, a new
weak sun rises once a year, its light colouring everything
the hue of the fox fur that was worn around the shoulders
of a 15th Century Cardinal as he stepped out into the
winter’s first snow, that made the marshes around Rome
look lunar. Across those marshes stole the shadow cast
by my figure , stitched into a crow costume that I made
from a thousand dead wings. Just then an arrow pierced
my side and I tumbled to the ground and waited for the
hunters to gather me up as flies began to nest in the wet
red ink of my wound. Then my bizarre, splayed form was
borne by torchlight and set in a giant jar amongst all the
other oddities and specimens in the Vatican Archives.

from , Whale , by Daragh Breen. Publ. November Press 2010.

The accompanying image is a still from David Wojnarowicz‘s A Fire in My Belly, which the Smithsonian Museum thought to ban on World Aids Day, bowing as some museums do to the pressure of certain mildly hysterical and somewhat uneducated Catholics. I have added the  discussion links to the base of this short post.

It interests me greatly that David Wojnarowicz’s image would be considered controversial and/or blasphemic, given the visualism of Roman Catholic Art History and it’s burgeoning apocrypha. My first instinct regarding the banning was quite simple; no-one owns the intellectual property rights to  human suffering, and the defacing  or censoring of images generally does not work because these archetypes from whence such  images are derived are indeed universal .

You may as well attempt to censor Luis Bunuel, Dali or the surrealists,as cave in to the pressure of people who do not understand the development of pictorial, or indeed three-dimensional images that have become apocryphal, but are there in our collective unconscious and our art history as guides and won’t just go away because someone screams blasphemy.

Indeed the problem of indelicacy in artistic representation of images that some people may consider to be in extremis visualisation has been the subject of discourse for centuries. Blasphemy and incompetence being charges against the very artists whose bone-close expression seems more to uncover a desire for ownership – rather than an understanding of visual art , or indeed of the messages conveyed by David Wojnarowicz , amongst others.

Still Image from A Fire in My Belly by David Wojnarowicz, recently banned from the Smithsonian Museum

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