How Great Thou Art: 5 Videos To Become Both Sacred And Profane This Easter Sunday

Christ has died! Christ has risen! Christ will…come again? Why hello there, dearest Filthy Dreams readers! Welcome! Would you like a glass of Sacramental wine? Hey! I know in church they only let you have a sip but Jesus wouldn’t want us to be cheap now would he?

I know what you’re thinking, faithful Filthy Dreams readers, what’s with all the religiosity? Well, I was visited by a vision just a few days ago on Good Friday. I was taking a quick afternoon nap and I awoke from my slumber by loud singing about lambs and Christ. Momentarily stunned, I peeked out my window only to see Jesus, covered in blood, walking down Avenue C with a crucifix led by Roman soldiers in costumes that looked like they came from the Spirit Halloween Store. Sure, it could have been some fanatical Good Friday parade from one of the churches around Alphabet City, but I don’t think so. It looked too real. Those Romans were even wearing sunglasses as they whipped poor JC.

Well, I was going to wait until the inevitable moment that Vice President Conversion Therapy, I mean, Mike Pence stepped into the Oval Office once Trump gets carted away for treason (It’ll happen sometime and jeez, I’ll kinda miss the guy) to become born again and find religion. No time like a Religious Freedom Restoration Act to start only writing about sincerely held religious beliefs on Filthy Dreams. But, after seeing Alphabet City Jesus, I figure that time might be the present.

I mean, our fictional decadent role model Des Esseintes knew that the pinnacle of decadence was throwing yourself into Catholicism as he did at the end of A Rebours (Against Nature). Tossing off pessimism and diving head first into both society and religion, Des Esseintes opines at the end of the novel: “Well, it’s all over now. Like a tide-race, the waves of human mediocrity are rising to the heavens and will engulf this refuge, for I am opening the flood-gates myself, against my will. Ah! but my courage fails me, and my heart is sick within me–Lord, take pity on the Christian who doubts, on the unbeliever who would fain believe, on the galley-slave of life who puts out to sea alone, in the night, beneath a firmament no longer lit by the consoling beacon-fires of the ancient hope!” (204). Just try delivering that speech over the Easter ham this year! It’s a guaranteed crowd-pleaser!

And if you need some more examples to show your family of your newfound religious fervor, then look no further than our Filthy Dreams list of 5 videos to be both sacred and profane this Easter. Religious on one hand, sacrilegious on the other, these videos will have your family adding some extra Hail Marys for you this year. So gather around your family or just slip into the confessional booth and show your unsuspecting Father that we too can plunge into Christ-inspired decadence. Hallelujah!

1. Nick Cave: Stranger In A Strange Land

There’s probably no better way to start this list than with Saint Nick–who better to tread the border of filth and grace than Nick who has walked that line his entire musical career. Well, speaking of that boundary, the 1987 documentary that follows Nick around his life in Berlin–Stranger In A Strange Land–was one of the main inspirations for this post. Namely, Nick’s “album of compiled pictures that I have put together” at around the 10 minute mark. What is that, you ask? An album that combines saintly Renaissance paintings with pornographic images. Yes, it’s as startling as it sounds. Well, for some of you Nick Cave fanatics, this bizarre combination will be familiar from the inside of the Your Funeral, My Trial album, but it’s still shocking nonetheless as Nick describes each page in the film with a clipped, mumbling deadpan: “This is Jesus at the well with St. Genevieve. And here is a young man watching a woman urinate. And there’s something that ties those together” Sure there is, Nick, sure there is.

2. Elvis singing gospel in 1972

Well, after Nick, the next logical step is Nick’s filth elder–Elvis! Nick has described Elvis’s final performances as similar to a crucifixion, an observation I can never get out of my head. Anyway, this Easter celebrate Elvis by watching him croon gospel songs with possibly the whitest backup band I’ve ever seen. The best part of this clip is Elvis’s look though. Nothing says gospel like what looks like a golden cape (?)/scarf(?)/part of a shirt (?) (I can’t tell) and his trademark sunglasses. He’d look like a trashy TV evangelist if the aesthetic wasn’t quintessential 1970s Elvis. I’m ready to fall to my knees and praise the King!

3. David Wojnarowicz “A Fire In My Belly”

Remember when ranting about censorship in the arts community was not only warranted, but necessary to protect difficult artwork from right wing nutballs who took down work, rather than screeching about censorship of a crap painting that still hangs on the wall in the Whitney Biennial? Me neither. Oh wait, yes. David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire In My Belly, which caused a stir in 2010 after House Republicans Eric Cantor and John Boehner and the Catholic League raised such a stink that it was pulled from the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibition Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire In American Portraiture. The offending image? A crucifix with ants crawling all over it. QUELLE HORREUR! Made during Wojnarowicz’s trip to Mexico, the selection shown in the Hide/Seek exhibition was actually a shortened clip from a full unfinished silent film that had been dubbed over by a terrifying song by Diamanda Galas and used in Rosa von Praunheim’s Silence = Death. Why does this matter? Because I’m sure Diamanda’s hollering about “UNCLEAN!” didn’t help things with the conservatives. So of course, I want to show that clip here. It just adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the whole thing.

4. Ron Athey: On Paintings and Performance 

Probably the artist who has come the closest to embodying the suffering body of Christ and all the other constantly tortured Saints (Think Saint Sebastian–the patron saint of all woebegone queers) is Ron Athey. His unendingly unsettling art has a transcendent quality despite copious blood, piercing and pain. If that doesn’t sound just like religious paintings, I don’t know what does. So here in this clip from a longer documentary on Athey’s art for the Southbank Centre, Athey nicely lays out the connection to religious paintings in his performances.

5. And last but not least, a celebration of Ben Carson’s painting with Jesus

This news report barely matters–it’s all about the painting. Ever since I learned about this masterpiece in now Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson’s house, I’ve been obsessed with acquiring my own tacky portrait with Jesus. Just look at Jesus’s death-grip on Ben’s shoulder and despite that, Ben looks just so enthused to be with the Lord. Also what’s with Jesus’s hairline? I just have so many questions, mainly who painted this portrait? For awhile, I was tweeting at Ben for the artist’s name, but he never responded. Some politician HE IS! It was and still is a pressing concern of mine. Why aren’t elected officials listening to MY concerns? So if any of you Filthy Dreams readers know where to get a portrait painted with Jesus, let me know.

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