Church’s ‘Stations of the Cross’ exhibition sparks controversy
A church in London has been forced to move a life-size statue of a crucified Imperial Star Wars stormtrooper to less-prominent place after complaints from parishioners.
The artwork, according to Artnet News, was to be the centrepiece of a “Stations of the Cross” exhibition due to open tomorrow (Thursday) at London’s historic St Stephen Walbrook church.
“Crucified Stormtrooper”, by street artist Ryan Callanan, was originally placed near the altar by the organisers, Art Below. It is priced at £12,000.
A representative from the church said:
“[Crucified Stormtrooper] was larger and more prominent than was anticipated when the exhibition was approved. Its position in the church as currently installed has proved to be distracting for some worshippers. As a result, following discussions with the curator, we have asked Art Below to reposition the work, so that it remains prominent but it is less of a distraction from the altar.
Callanan showed a much smaller version of the work at The Picture Frame Gallery in 2014 and faced accusations of blasphemy. He said at the time:
It’s not making fun of any particular religion and certainly not Christianity.
He claimed that the sculpture was commenting on the expendable nature of Star Wars’ faceless stormtroopers, who are “cannon fodder” for the Empire’s cause.
But, according to this report, devout Christian Sarah Jenkin reported the Gidea Park gallery to Trading Standards, saying:
It’s extremely blasphemous and offensive. Some people may find it funny but, as a Christian, I don’t.
It’s time Christians stand up and say ‘no we are not putting up with this’. I’m not going to throw a brick through the window but I will speak up.
In the wake of the most recent controversy, Callanan said:
This is a crucified stormtrooper and has nothing to do with religion. It is not a method of capital punishment reserved for the son of God. This work is like many of my works, using symbology and pop culture and mixing them up to create a new narrative.
Ben Moore, Art Below’s founder and curator, believes the work speaks to a narrative shared by both Star Wars and Christianity.
It’s symbolic that in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), we saw a stormtrooper escape from the Dark Side to come and support the rebellion. The Crucified Stormtrooper plays into the notion of forgiveness.
Reverend Jonathan Evens of St Stephen Walbrook defended the artwork:
This is an exhibition of images designed to provoke thought from artists grappling with their response to the challenge and scandal of Christ’s cross. For me, this image raises similar questions to those which CS Lewis raised in his science fiction trilogy ie that, were other races to exist on other planets, would Christ be incarnated among those races in order to die for their salvation?…
[This is a work] that can open our ideas and minds to new reflections on the eternal significance of Christ’s sacrifice.
Art Below’s “Stations of the Cross” is on view at St Stephen Walbrook, 39 Walbrook, London, from March 15 to 23.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn