An art exhibition where people are encouraged to write in a Bible has seen visitors daub abuse and obscenities across its pages. Part of Made in God’s Image, the exhibit also includes a video of a woman ripping pages from the Bible and stuffing them into her bra, knickers and mouth. Next to the copy of the Bible at the Gallery of Modern Art (Goma) in Glasgow is a container of pens and a notice, which says: ‘If you feel you have been excluded from the Bible, please write your way back into it.’
The exhibit, entitled Untitled 2009, was put forward by the Metropolitan Community Church with the aim of reclaiming the Bible as a sacred text. But its pages have been scrawled with comments including ‘F*** the Bible’ and ‘I am Bi, Female & Proud. I want no god who is disappointed in this’, the Times reported.
The exhibition was created by artists Anthony Schrag and David Malone, alongside organisations representing gay Christians and Muslims.
Mr Schrag, the gallery’s artist in residence, said he did not believe in God, but that research into the £7,000 show had reinforced his respect for people of faith. He told the Times: 'Any offensive things that have been written are not the point of the work. It was an open gesture. ‘Are those who say they are upset offended by the things that people write, or just by the very notion that someone should write on a Bible?’ The artist, a Canadian who studied for a master’s degree at the Glasgow School of Art, said that human rights are behind the show. He told the newspaper: ‘Art allows us to discuss difficult things, and Goma allows difficult discussions to take place - that is why Glasgow is at the cutting edge of contemporary art.’
Jane Clarke, a minister of the community church, said she regretted the insults that had been written in the Bible. She said: ‘The Bible should never be used like that. It was our intention to reclaim it as a sacred text.’ Other messages written in the book feature alterations to lines in the Old Testament. These include ‘The Gospel According to Luke Skywalker’ and ‘In the beginning, God (me) I created religion’.
Producers of the exhibition have said that the most offensive pages will be removed.
But critics including the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church, the Christian Institute and a Christian lawyers’ group questioned why the exhibition was allowed to be staged. George Reid, an ex-Lord High Commissioner of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, is on the board of the council-funded arts body behind the show.
Mr Reid, who said he did not know about the event, branded the exhibit a ‘sad form of sensationalism’. He said: 'Glasgow has a fine record of opposing discrimination and violence. Defacing the Bible will not help to build an inclusive and tolerant society.
‘It is a sad form of sensationalism which will cause gross offence to believers of many faiths.’
Simon Calvert, deputy director for public affairs at the Christian Institute, said: 'People writing on the Bible doesn’t change the truth. 'We all know that they wouldn’t do that if it was the sacred text of another religion. ‘That a taxpayer subsidised gallery should see fit to give space to something like that is disappointing.’
Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: 'We have got to a point where we call the desecration of the Bible modern art. ‘The Bible stands for everything this art does not: for creation, beauty, hope and regeneration.’ A Church of Scotland spokesman said: 'We would discourage anyone from defacing the Bible.'
A spokesman for the Catholic Church said: ‘One wonders whether the organisers would have been quite as willing to have the Koran defaced.’
Susie Squire, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: 'People pay their council tax to get their bins collected, not to fund pornography and destruction of religious texts.'
The Goma gallery is also home to sh[OUT], a project which includes an exhibition featuring gay pornography and a series of ‘community outreach’ events designed to tackle homophobia.