June 26, 2019 | 72° F

EDITORIAL: Be critical, but stay open to other ideas

Artwork depicting Jesus on dartboard was quickly removed


Bruised and pierced, Jesus is sprawled on a crucifix. This is one of the most commemorated images that billions of Christians pay deference to. Crucifixion was the cruelest form of punishment during the Roman era, and Jesus was subjected to this penalty as he died on a cross for all of humanity’s sins.

Jesus was also sprawled out in the same form at the Art Library on the College Avenue campus, but instead of being held on a crucifix, he was on a dartboard. And where the nails had penetrated his skin and bones was where darts were placed instead. And right in the middle of the board was Jesus in a sorrowful form, the target for all the people who wanted to play.

What does this rendition mean? It’s not yet clear, and like with many works of art, maybe it never will be clear. But before people were given the opportunity to look at it and ponder, the artwork was taken down after a few days due to complaints from students. The image was taken down before it could give people an opportunity to take away a meaning.

At a passing glance and with an ephemeral analysis, the piece could seem appalling especially to those who are deeply religious. However, art is intended to make people think. The controversial piece, the “Vitruvian Man,” should force one to reflect on beliefs and how society functions in order to take away an idea. But when artwork is censored or taken away before thoughtful analysis, then everyone else is bereft of the message that could’ve been conveyed.

There are a million ways to think about this piece. On one hand, it could be understood through an atheist lens, and therefore being laid out across a dartboard could be interpreted as a depiction of the frivolity of religion, hence the permissibility of playing games with an iconic religious figure. On the other hand, it could also be understood through a pious lens, and the depiction means that people don’t take religion seriously enough — people around the world still continue to play games (the dartboard) through sinful acts, and it pains the person (Jesus) who has defended and suffered for them the most. In all, it’s up to the individual to assess the unique meaning the piece can provide them.

However, the artwork was quickly labeled as disrespectful to the Christian religion, and dismissed. This instance of censorship wasn’t necessary, because many people who were Christian passed by the piece without qualms and second thoughts. The work might have been offensive to some, but just because it offends someone doesn’t mean it should be ushered away and removed.

And for those who are concerned, this piece couldn’t have been a display of hate against Christians and the Christian religion. Although there’s sometimes a blurry line between freedom of expression and hate-speech, this case isn’t one of them. The “Vitruvian Man” is ambiguous enough to be interpreted a multiplicity of ways rather an undeniable and one-way understanding that this is solely attacking the Christian religion. The artwork could have been overtly gruesome, malicious and hateful than it actually was, because expressing sentiments of hate is easy, but presenting a thought-provoking piece is not.

Emphatically telling in its placement in the University’s Art Library, the piece has already been recognized as art and was been placed in a library — a structure that holds a plurality of ideas within its artwork and books. Just because people can’t agree with the piece right away doesn’t mean it should be removed. As people who have matriculated into the University seeking an education, students must become more open to all ideologies, even if it challenges their own. Students should remain critical, but censoring isn't always the right conclusion.

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 148th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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