Swedish Art raises uprising in Belgrade

Ecce Homo (Latin for “See this man”) is an exhibition of twelve photographs of various biblical situations, interpreted with a modern twist. The photo exhibition “Ecce Homo” by the Swedish artist and photographer Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin caused great debate in Sweden when the exhibition was first displayed at Stockholm Pride and around the country in the summer of 1998. Television and radio programmes and debate articles mentioned her spectacular photographs. Now, her photo exhibition is experiencing a Renaissance but it could also be stopped from appearing during the Pride celebration in Belgrade which started earlier this week. The Pride parade on Saturday, October 6, could also be stopped. For more information, see links below.

(“The Last Supper.” Photo: Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin)

On Sunday September 30, 2012, Pride week opened in Serbia, a week full of seminars, debates and art exhibitions, in support of the country’s LGBT community. For the second year in a row, the authorities are now banning the parade, claiming that national security is endangered. Militant Serb nationalists are threatening to forcibly stop the Pride parade in Belgrade. The reason for their angry and violent outbursts was the Swedish artist and photographer Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin’s exhibition “Ecce Homo,” which is scheduled to open at the Festival today. Ivica Dacic, Serbia’s Prime Minister, who is also the Police Minister, have attacked the exhibition, and he has said that the photographs, with homosexual motifs, is equally provocative for the Serbs as the Muhammad images are to the Muslims. Therefore, he does not rule out violent protests.

“If anything like that should appear, that associates Jesus with gay people, I can not understand how this can proceed peacefully,” the Prime Minister said at a press conference earlier this week. Prime Minister Dacic also suggests that the Pride parade may be canceled:
“The situation is too tense. First and foremost, we need to think about security,” says Ivica Dacic to the newspaper Politika.

Patriarch Irinej, representative of the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church, expects the government to stop the exhibition, which he regards as disgraceful. Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin had initially planned to go to Belgrade when the exhibition is opening, but she was unable to go:
– It’s okay now, I want to go and help them, but I don’t think I can do much, and I think it might be dangerous for me if I go to Belgrade.
(Source: Metro Sweden, October 3, 2012)


All pictures are linked to Bible quotes and the pictures are in turn:
1. Annunciation; Luke 1:30-31
2. The Crib; Luke 2:7
3. The baptism of Jesus; Luke 3:21-22
4. Woe to the Pharisees; Luke 23:13
5. Entry to Jerusalem; Luke 19:37-40
6. The Last Supper; Matt. 26:28
7. Judas’ Kiss; Matt. 26:45-48
8. Jesus being weighed by the cross; Mark 15:17-20
9. The Crucifixion; Matt. 27:45-46
10. Pietà; John 19:26
11. Jesus showing himself to the women; Matt. 23:9
12. Heaven; Matt. 18:18

Many of the images are inspired by classic paintings and all are photographed in a modern environment. The photographer Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin has deliberately used gay models and environments to communicate the similarity between biblical and contemporary alienation and to show the inclusive love of G-d. The photo “The Last Supper” depicts transvestites instead, (of homosexuals) as a commentary that Jesus, according to the Bible, often had meals together with the outcasts.

My comment:
The tradition of portraying biblical events is not a new phenomenon. We have all seen the icons and statues of saints and biblical motives within the Catholic church. When Europe became Protestant in the 16th century, also these images of saints disappeared. Instead a new form of art arose, the Pietà; from the Italian; piety, tenderness, mercy, from latin pietas, a term in Christian art as a representation of Mary grieving at her dead son’s body. In Italy in the year of 1499, Michelangelo created a large statue in marble, which he called the Pietà! It is located in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican, Rome.
Marc Chagall (1887-1985) was a Russian-Jewish Impressionist artist who also painted biblical motives. And common to them all is that they put bliblical people and events in the context of that cultural environment, time and with the expression that prevailed in the artist’s life.

More on “Ecce Homo.” The exhibition was opened in Stockholm in July 1998 and attracted attention even back then. In connection with the exhibition in the Uppsala Cathedral in September 19, 1998, a nationwide public debate was launched. The photo exhibition “Ecce Homo” was perceived by many people as highly controversial and aroused strong emotions, both positive and negative, when it appeared. The pictures are scenes from the life of Jesus, where he is surrounded by gays, lesbians and other outcast people. It should be added that there are no actual obscene pictures of Jesus, which some critics have said, without having seen the photos! The exhibition, which I myself visited when it appeared in an underground shelter here in Stockholm, was in any case not as emotive as Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of The Christ” who came six years later, when this film showed more than two hours of elaborate, bloody violence! I think I will translate and upload my article on this exhibition from 1998.

The exhibition Ecce Homo, became too much for representatives from churches and communities. Just when all of this erupted in the news, I had just set up my homepage “HateHurts – Jonathans page on racism.” Back then, I wrote an article about the exhibition after a very thorough research of hundreds of newspaper articles, hours of video and audio recordings of stories and news that I collected. The exhibition was shown at multiple locations in the country, and in a few instances it was exposed to fire and graffiti!
I visited the exhibition and have met many who were involved in this art exhibition. Several of my friends are posing in the picture depicting the “The Last Supper.”

Read more:
Ecce Homo on Wikipedia
Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin Photographer

• Civil Rights Defenders, Stockholm Pride parade banned in Serbia
Amnesty International Report 2012 Serbia
• Serbian News Paper Politika, Oct. 3, 2012 “EU commissar: All eyes on Serbia for Parade”
• Novi Magazin, Beograd Pride – a major health risk

© 2012 Jonathan Axelsson
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About Meadow of Tzedaqyal

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience” (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, 1881-1955)
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