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They’ve already all but demolished Christianity in their country, but the Dutch cultural elite continue their fight against a phantom enemy. Look:
Perhaps the quietest spot, however, is the Museum of Christian Art, or Catharijneconvent, named for its patron, St. Catherine, in a former convent of nuns nestled against the church of the Roman Catholic archbishop.In recent weeks, as visitors passed the peaceful cloister leading to the museum’s entrance, they were struck by a three-meter, or nine-foot, white polyester phallus.
The work of a local Dutch artist, it was a kind of introduction to an exhibit of 122 objects by artists from 27 countries titled Lingam, for the Hindu cult object usually viewed in the West as a phallic symbol. It is the most common representation of Shiva — the destroyer, the transformer, the god who embodies both life and the negation of life — at temples across India.
Most of the objects are barely larger than a fist. Some portray the phallus in wire, others in cardboard, still others in metal; one by the American artist Matt Stone is in denim and plastic. Some resemble mushrooms, others pin cushions. They were displayed on three tables covered in saffron-colored fabric, in one of the museum’s largest display areas.
Utrechters came in droves. In its regular six weeks, the show drew more than 9,000 visitors, numbers large enough to prompt the museum to extend the exhibit by two weeks.
Note well that this is a state museum, not a church-sponsored one. Check out this priceless quote from the museum director:
“We wanted to criticize the hypocritical Christian attitude to sexuality, which won’t let people enjoy sex,” said Mr. van den Hout, a scholar who also advises the Vatican on cultural matters.
What useful thing could this man possibly have to say to the Vatican about cultural matters? Anyway, leaving aside the utter banality and juvenilia of a Hindu penis exhibition at a Museum of Christian Art, it’s simply pathological to think that there is even a “Christian attitude to sexuality” to protest in contemporary Holland. There is nothing of it left to rebel against — except, actually, the trite mentality exhibited by this van den Hout character, who is like an elderly Imperial Japanese soldier hiding in the South Pacific bush, who hasn’t yet gotten the word that the war is over. Except in van den Hout’s case, his side won.
I am reminded of watching the Oscar-winning but mediocre Dutch film “Antonia’s Line” with a Dutch journalist film years ago. At a certain point in the film, the tension is resolved by everyone in the house having sex. My Dutch friend, who was not religious, was offended aesthetically. He said, “That’s how it is for Dutch artists. We can’t think of anything creative to say, we just throw in sex.”
UPDATE: I went back to the article looking for an age for museum director Guus van den Hout, but it wasn’t there. However, on the museum’s website, there’s a photo of Mijnheer v/d Hout, and — surprise! — he looks to be a Baby Boomer. Will we never be rid of that generation and its tired, flaccid obsessions? Reminds me of something Barbara Nicolosi-Harrington said in her interview about Hollywood filmmaking:
Things are changing, too. The boomers are dying and ceding power, and the power is going into the very troubled, introspective hands of the Generation Xers, people like Jason Reitman, who made Juno and what I consider this year’s best film, Up in the Air. These folks are completely ambivalent about the promises of the sexual revolution. They don’t have other options, but they know the way they were raised was wrong.