Exhibition on Religion May Test Blasphemy Legislation

There has been a lot of dialogue in the press (see further reading links below) on the proposed Blasphemy Bill by Dermot Ahern, which is especially interesting for The Model as we are about to open an exhibition that tackles contemporary representations of religion and religiosity. Here’s a copy of press release that we’re issuing later today:
An exhibition that tackles religion may incite charges of blasphemy as under proposed national legislation. On show from May 23rd — August 16th at The Model in Sligo, the exhibition Medium Religion involves over thirty art projects that cast a challenging gaze on religions. The curators, one of whom is speaking publicly about the project in a former church, as well as the artists and/or the current director of The Model could all face charges of blasphemy according to the legislation.

The curators (who are based in Germany) contend that “many of the artists’ relationship to religious rituals, images, and texts � take a blasphemous route. Thus, the artists place religious symbolism in an unconventional context in order to provoke a different mode of perception.”

As reported in The Irish Times, there is currently no crime of blasphemy on the statute books, though it is prohibited by the Constitution. Justice Minister Dermot Ahern proposes to insert a new section into the Defamation Bill, stating: “A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.”

Our upcoming exhibition Medium Religion is accompanied by a publication including scholarly contributions, and a public forum/symposium on the subject of contemporary art and religion held on June 20th, all of which may be considered blasphemous matter under the legislation.

Medium Religion opens at The Model on Saturday May 23rd following its successful exhibition at ZKM in Germany. A public talk by internationally renowned philosopher Boris Groys, one of the curators of the project, opens the show in Sligo in a former church.

Medium Religion provocatively enters sideways into the world of religions. This multi-layered project tackles contemporary representations of religion and religiosity. Taking an unusual focus on how religious thought is disseminated, Medium Religion examines how religions currently manifest themselves internationally, above all in geo-political hotspots such as in the Middle East. Artwork and included videos include suicide confessions from ideologically-inspired terrorists, religious propaganda TV series, broadcasts of religious events, meditations on death and dying, blasphemous images, miitant Islamic propaganda, religious sect training videos, documentaries on cults, an artwork that represents a living Islamic prophet, and even hybrid religious-leisure activities. The window entrance of the gallery has two nine foot Christ sculptures, both based on the famous Christ that overlooks Rio de Janeiro, and a giant black Buddha emerging from a wall.

The exhibition will be shown in the Model Satellite space at Castle House in central Sligo, a temporary space while the main building undergoes a major redevelopment. Alongside the exhibition are a range of Education Programming, Artist Commissions, and Music Programming that exemplify The Model’s inclusive, multi-disciplinary activities.

This project, curated by Boris Groys and Peter Weibel, is a production of by ZKM /Center for Contemporary Art and Media, in Karlsruhe, Germany, and includes a publication including scholarly contributions, and a public forum on the subject of contemporary art and religion produced by The Model in collaboration with Goethe Institut.

See recent articles by Fintan O’Toole, Kevin Myers, Diarmuid Doyle, and Sarah Mcinerny