National Catholic Register


Communion Wafers in Shape of Swastika? Yawn.

BY Matthew Archbold

| Posted 6/21/10 at 9:00 AM


I don’t appreciate modern art. Seriously, have you seen one piece of public art that didn’t look like evidence of public drunkenness? I saw some metallic structure the other day in Philadelphia and I couldn’t decide if it was a bear signaling a rescue plane or a hobo with antlers.

I sometimes fear that our art will somehow be the most durable thing we create and 25th century archaeologists will conclude that we either lost a terrible battle with antlered hobos who left their statues all over the planet as a sign of planetary domination or we were so artistically puerile that an antlered hobo invasion would’ve been preferable. To ensure that doesn’t happen I’ve been considering running around affixing notes to works of modern art saying “We didn’t really know what was going on here either. Art in our time essentially became welfare for liberal arts majors. Sorry.”

But as tough as it is appreciating modern art, let’s face it, it’s probably a lot tougher actually being a modern day struggling artist. Unless you’re the really fortunate heir to some eccentric uncle, you’re probably living in Mom and Steve’s basement. And while you’re crafting your masterpiece out of macaroni you know that throughout history, success typically comes to artists 1) like never 2) after they’re dead.

But somewhere during the 20th century a few enterprising artists figured out a way to achieve some quick and cheapo notoriety without a whole lot of thought or skill. They just plopped a crucifix in urine or threw elephant dung at a picture of a saint. And voila, instant artist-celebrity. Hey don’t make fun. Many chose that path and they got federal grants and their faces in free newspapers and they were called “edgy” on self important dimly lit cable access shows.

But I’ve got some bad news for artists. Not just a little bad news. Big bad news. While artists were never awash with avenues to success, now even the whole anti-Christian avenue has closed down. Creating anti-Christian art just doesn’t get the job done anymore either like it used to.

That’s right. Anti-Christianity rhetoric and art is so common that it’s just not edgy anymore.

Seriously, a decade ago if some struggling artist created pictures of swastikas made of unblessed communion wafers there would’ve been protests and screaming and the artist would be changing his name to some one word moniker and fielding phone calls from art critics, agents, and producers wanting to make his life story a feature starring Crispin Glover or Michael Pare.

But recently, a photographer from Vogue Magazine did create a swastika made of communion wafers, sat back and waited for the phone to ring and…nothing. Well not exactly nothing. The Hackney Gazette (really) and the Jewish Chronicle called and wrote stories but that’s it.

For profit-provocateurism is a difficult business when so many are doing it. It’s tough to provoke outrage in a world where Hugh Hefner has a reality show that’s on at the same time as “Wife Swap” and the Bill Maher show.

Mind you, this communion wafer swastika was a particularly weak attempt in that the “artist” didn’t seem to have his story down as to what he was exactly protesting. He told one paper it was both protesting “the persecution of the Christian faith by the Nazis during the Second World War” but at the same time attacking Pope Pius’ alleged “silence” during the Holocaust.

What?! So it’s about the persecution of Catholics by Nazis and the complicit persecution of Jews by Catholics in league with Nazis? Come on. At least get your story straight.

But no matter what, it’s clear that anti-Christianity is sooooo mainstream that it’s not even cool. Let’s face it, faithful Catholicism is the new edgy. Anyone have a cable access show I can come on?