There’s been some interesting bits on art from around the world this week. The most painful and derpy of them all is news about conservative Catholic organizations protesting a play which, from what I can gather, deals with a sad, difficult, depressing, and very real subject — a dying elderly parent.

It’s not pleasant to deal with dying family members. They start to slip away, their personalities and bodies fall apart until there’s almost nothing left, and you as the caretaker are full of hurt and resentment toward a person you otherwise loved, and toward a situation which, if you’re religious, you might feel that God has put you in. You’re angry at everything. There are some things that can help alleviate this hurt: the ability to talk openly about what is happening to you, the love and support of your community, and, if you’re religious, you might also take comfort in whatever scripture you read. All religious scriptures deal with hardships, and the point of most of these entries is to show the reader how to deal with the situation with grace and understanding. That’s at least what I’ve gotten out of talking to religious types.

So what these silly Catholics seem to be protesting is the association between religious imagery and defecation.

The work focuses on a man caring for his dying father, and most commentators have obsessed on the father’s incontinence, which permeates the work (quite literally, the show smells like shit), leaving the son to clean up a shit-smeared floor in front of a projection of a painting of Christ with a inscrutable look on his face.

That comment, to me, says that the social taboo against talking about incontinence and the processes of our large intestine has become more important than why the subject is brought up. I have a hard time believing that anyone who has seen this play has not at least indirectly been exposed to an elderly person who suffers this humiliating problem. There’s issues of control and loss of self symbolized by the incontinence issue, and the critics are turning it into an elementary-school level poo joke.

And these religious nuts! I have problems with religious fundamentalists anyway, but protesting simply because you don’t like the fact that Jesus and Poop are displayed blatantly on the same stage in the same play at the same time is a stupid, stupid, stupid reason to dislike a work of art. What about all the help that religion supposedly provides for people at the end of their lives? What about all the trials and tribulations religion is supposed to help us overcome through doctrine and scripture? And what about the suffering of the apostles, Jesus, prophets of the Old Testament, which were not pretty? These morons are showing the exact level of compassion they actually have for the elderly, the caretakers, the downtrodden and suffering and those in spiritual and emotional pain, which is NONE. It is infuriating and insulting that they are sticking their fingers in their ears and screaming LALALALALA at the deeper message of this play, while daring to accuse those of us who have witnessed this pain, who will eventually have to live through this pain, and who want to talk about it to change the larger culture, of immorality.

Fuck you, L’Action Francaise and French Renewal. You are making the world a worse, more oppressive place.

Also, did they seriously learn nothing from England? I thought France thought it was better than the British Isles. They’ve had about 4 centuries to process the whole beheading-of-Charles-I-crazy-Puritan-anti-art-occupation-of-England-Restoration-of-Charles-II thing.

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On the upside, 100,000 year old paint was discovered recently in South Africa, which is pretty freaking cool. See, France? Art is good, art is part of how we have always expressed ourselves since we started evolving. Decoration, beauty, symbolism … these are all part of how we process and discuss our world, and religion is part of that, and if you think oppressing any art because it squicks you is ok, then you should go live in a cave without TV for a few years and see what kinds of self-expression starts pouring out of you against your will.

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My friend B. Michael Peterson posted this on facebook recently with the question: “L. Nicol, at what age do you think theatre directors hit their peak?”

The short answer is, I don’t. The long answer is, I think age helps directors a lot. Yes, it’s good to get a start as soon as you think you’re ready to handle a cast and crew, but the more you live and experience, the better you will be at creating narrative and supporting other people’s narratives. If you are interested, my favorite book ever on directing is called simply Notes on Directing, by Frank Hauser and Russell Reich. Hauser is one of the most influential English directors of the 20th century, and his method is very simple: understand, communicate, and guide all the artists at all stages of the process (except script-writing).

2 thoughts on “Art Round-Up, mostly derp

  1. Hey, thanks for the link to my article on the Castellucci controversy in Paris. It’s totally sad and I think you’re spot on, but the one thing I want to add (and I’ve updated the story with more information) is that these groups aren’t even just conservative religious activists, they’re more like full-on hate groups with histories of anti-gay and anti-immigrant violence, and are associated with Catholic groups so extreme they’re schismatic with the Vatican and even embrace Nazi sympathizers. So they’re super fringe, and very scary, but not exactly indicative of mainstream religious conservatives in France. The Catholic church has actually condemned their actions.

  2. Hi Jeremy — Thank you for letting me know so quickly. I appreciate the update. There’s no reason to condone this kind of action when it is so shallow, even if they’re fringe groups, and I would hope that the Vatican’s condemnation actually spurs people to discuss end-of-life care and compassion in greater depth, as well extremism of any kind.

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