Today HD and I met up with some friends from York who are staying in Scotland for a couple of weeks to relax prior to the (very imminent) birth of their first baby. We met at the Gallery of Modern Art, which is currently the home of an exhibition called sh[OUT] which is of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex art (some of the art is sexually explicit but there’s nothing explicit at that link) as part of GoMA’s biannual social justice exhibition. There were bits of it that I enjoyed more than others (as with any exhibition) – some things I just thought “eh?”, other aspects of the exhibition were a bit pseudy, and others I liked more. Part of the exhibition wasMade in God’s Image which was a selection of art exploring the intersection of sexuality and religion, the bulk of this featured photos of members of the Metropolitan Community Church interpreting various Biblical stories (the link shows the photo of Ruth and Naomi). There was also a piece featuring a Bible, which was asking people to add their stories by writing in the Bible themselves (the point being that many LGBTI people feel they have been removed from the Bible, or at least from standard interpretations of it). Unfortunately (and I am amazed they didn’t see this coming, but anyway) all that happened was that the Bible ended up full of offensive graffiti, and so now the Bible is in a glass case and there are some blank pages next to it which are added to the Bible every so often. There was another bit with pages of the Bible torn out and screwed up, and a photo of a woman with pages of the Bible in her mouth and up her nose etc – have to say I found that gratuitous and offensive to be honest, I didn’t see its value as either art or as a statement on discrimination but it felt like it was being offensive for the sake of it. They also had a small amount of art from people from the Muslim community (though as they said in the blurb, the relatively small amount compared to Christian communities probably attests to the difficulty that many in other religious communities have in exploring and discussing sexuality). There was one set of photos, 3 I think, of a Muslim guy which related to his everyday life as a Muslim and as a gay man, which I found very moving in particular.
As we left the museum, there was a protest by a small group of Christians with banners and posters with Glasgow’s extended motto (“Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of Thy Word and the praising of Thy Name”). I’m not sure if it was a one-off protest or if they are protesting there regularly for the duration of the exhibition, but it was the strangest juxtaposition – it reminded me very much of the Father Ted Down With This Sort of Thing protest, and (similarly to how I felt when I went to the service where Bishop Gene Robinson preached at St Mary’s Cathedral last year) the contrast between the humour and hurt and reality and creativity inside in the exhibition and the dour, joyless protest outside was really very striking – as one of our friends said, it was almost like it was an extension of the exhibition (and, probably more eloquently than any of the art, highlighted the exclusion and hatred that many people face as they try to face and live who they truly are). I don’t know – I think I understand why they are protesting (though I think they’re very wrong), but I just wish if they’re going to claim to represent the church and the Christian faith that they’d be less miserable and dour about it. Protesting against something you believe to be wrong is one thing, but to be so sour about it does the church no favours, and to be honest I think is counter-productive. Plus it’s probably doing more to publicise the exhibition than if they stayed at home and ignored it.
So, sh[OUT] – worth a look I’d say if you are in town, though I wouldn’t take children unless you (and they) are ready for a very frank conversation about birds & bees, birds & birds, bees & bees, etc. The main part of the exhibition is on till November, and the Made in God’s Image bit is on till 22nd August.