Urinating on the Dead: Marine Performance Art?

You may have heard about American soldiers who urinated on the bodies of some dead Taliban insurgents. I suspect that the dead soldiers tried to kill American soldiers. War is hell. People are killed. Bodies are mutilated, blown to bits by bombs and shrapnel, and incinerated. My father had his right leg blown off in the Korean War. He would have preferred to have been urinated on if he could have kept his leg.

Here’s how Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor reported on the story:

The military is investigating, and appears to have identified the four marines. Their military careers, it’s safe to say, are close to over and a court martial is almost certain. A deeper look into the Marine unit involved and its command environment is coming down the pike. That’s as it should be.

But remember that if you put enough men in combat, for enough time, this sort of thing is likely to happen.

So there’s outrage by public officials and apologies are being sent at the speed of light. Here’s what Congressman Allen West, with more than 20 years of active duty service in the United States Army, had to say about the incident:

The Marines were wrong. Give them a maximum punishment under field grade level Article 15 (non-judicial punishment), place a General Officer level letter of reprimand in their personnel file, and have them in full dress uniform stand before their Battalion, each personally apologize to God, Country, and Corps videotaped and conclude by singing the full US Marine Corps Hymn without a teleprompter.

As for everyone else, unless you have been shot at by the Taliban, shut your mouth, war is hell.

I find all this very interesting in light of another urine incident.

Where were our government officials when artist and photographer Andres Serrano unveiled his “Piss Christ”? It was a photograph of a “small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist’s urine. The piece was a winner of the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art’s ‘Awards in the Visual Arts’ competition, which is sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a United States Government agency that offers support and funding for artistic projects.”

What was the response from the art community? Here’s one example:

The art critic Lucy R. Lippard has presented a constructive case for the formal value of Serrano’s Piss Christ, which she characterizes as mysterious and beautiful. She writes that the work is “a darkly beautiful photographic image… the small wood and plastic crucifix becomes virtually monumental as it floats, photographically enlarged, in a deep rosy glow that is both ominous and glorious.” Lippard suggests that the formal values of the image can be regarded separately from other meanings.

In 2010, there was the ants on the crucifix video that was being shown at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, another government-funded institution. It was later moved to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Wendy Olsoff, a co-owner of the New York City art gallery that manages Wojnarowicz’s work, said the artist frequently used animals and insects to represent metaphors for interactions in human society. “This was not hate speech,” she said. “It’s a compassionate look at how we live. He’s overlaying the insect world on the human world. … And he used ants in a series of surreal images, using them on guns, clocks and toy soldiers.”

The urinating Marines could argue that all they were doing was engaging in “performance art” that was designed to serve as a metaphor for interactions in human society. And what does the metaphor represent? They were pissed off in seeing their fellow-soldiers killed and for their government sending them off to fight senseless wars.

It’s OK to blow the enemy apart and bath them in blood — and a lot of innocent people as well — but don’t y0u dare urinate on them after you just killed them.

Just one man’s opinion.