Friday, August 29, 2014

Can Religion and Eroticism Mix?

A 'Hidden Women' exhibition gets hidden itself.
Read our lips: Stylized vaginas
make a statement about
Nobody who's been to a Latin American carnaval can doubt that Catholicism and eroticism do mix.

However, when the Museo Santa Clara, located in an historic convent off of Plaza Bolivar, scheduled an exhibition by Colombian artist María Eugenia Trujillo utilizing eroticism to make a statement about the control of women's bodies, conservative Catholic organizations protested and filed suit calling the artwork an "attack on the freedom of religion." Two days ago, a judge ordered the exhibition 'Hidden Women' (Mujeres Ocultas) closed on the eve of its inauguration.

The museum's shut door with legal notices
about the exhibition's closure.
Trujillo says she uses eroticism, female bodies and even a stylized vagina in the exhibition to denounce repression and control of women's bodies. The images I've seen are abstract enough that we couldn't be certain they were parts of human anatomy if we hadn't been told they were. It's hard to avoid the impression that for some people (read: el Procurador General) sexuality is beyond the pale, particularly when it is mixed with feminism. Ttujillo's art may be good or bad, but it doesn't look like the "open attack on the nation's Catholic community" as one Catholic organization charged.

Is the exhibition's closure - which may be temporary - censorship? I've seen much more polemical works in private spaces in Bogotá. If this exhibition were not in a publicly-owned church, the conservative Catholic organizations would have no prayer of closing it. The exhibit's organizers could move it to many other sites where it would cause fewer waves - and receive less attention. This was, after all, a Catholic institution, even if it's now used as a secular museum.

All of which evidences a much-repeated point: opposition, censorship and controversy generate attention. If not for the Catholic's protests, this exhibit would have come and gone unnoticed and unseen except by a few in this little-known museum.

But the media goes crazy over anything involving sex and polemics -which gave Trujillo's work incalculable free attention. So much for censorship.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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