Andres Serrano’s Cuban Odyssey: The Creator of ‘Piss Christ’ Embarks on a Quest to Photograph Fidel Castro
Andres Serrano is perhaps best known for peeing on Jesus Christ, or rather submerging a plastic crucifix figurine in his own urine and photographing it. His 1987 work Piss Christtouched off one of the most famous controversies in contemporary art history. Christians were outraged at his blasphemy in the name of creativity—and the fact that the government had given him a National Endowment for the Arts grant for his work, including Piss Christ—which resulted in death threats and protests. Even today, the piece causes outrage whenever it is exhibited and is frequently the target of vandalism. Of course, Andres has made a lot of art since then, including images that have been used as album covers for Metallica, but it is his earlier work that is mostly taught in college art courses the world over.
We had no idea what Andres was up to until last summer when we got a call from Dahlia Heyman, a producer with whom we are working on a feature film. She asked if we’d be interested in accompanying Andres on a three-week trip to Cuba as he attempted to photograph the normally reclusive Fidel Castro. He was planning to leave in three days, Dahlia said, but we agreed before she could even finish her pitch.
The following day, we met Andres in his West Village home, which is decorated like a Gothic cathedral, complete with pews and a collection of taxidermied cats and bats. We were as giddy as schoolgirls when he used us as models for lighting setups that he was planning for portraits in Cuba. We were less enthused when, a few days later, we found ourselves carrying cameras through crowded Havana streets in 105-degree weather, wishing desperately for a sip of water. The trip had us piling into the backs of 1950s Chevrolets and rickshaws, venturing into morgues, underground gay bars, and reggaeton concerts. Alas, Andres did not end up shooting El Comandante himself, but he did manage to document what seemed like the entire country in a few weeks. We followed him into the homes of Cubans of all social classes—including some members of the Castro family.
Nate Hill Wears Naked White Women as Scarves
Nate Hill stood in the living room of a twee North Brooklyn apartment on an afternoon in late October with a naked white girl draped around his shoulders. I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a picture. Then he nodded and started to walk slowly around the girl’s furniture. Everything was silent except for the creak of the wood floor. After about a minute, he gently let the girl down. She smiled, said thank you, and showed us to the door.
The peculiar act that I saw was part of the 36-year-old performance artist’s latest project called “Trophy Scarves.” The project involves Nate traveling to the homes of white women, getting them naked, and wearing them as human scarves. As strange as it sounds, it’s not the first time Nate has perpetrated some seriously weird shit in the name of art and social critique. Nate crashed into the art world back in 2008 with taxidermy tours of Chinatown’s garbage. He followed that up with “Death Bear,” a project that involved him wearing a bear suit and meeting up with random people to take away their possessions associated with bad memories. He’s thrown half-eaten cheeseburgers at pedestrians while riding a bike, delivered fake crack to apartments while wearing a dolphin suit, and sent a computer virus to all of his press contacts. Most recently, he’s been focusing on doing race-based pieces, like “White Power Milk,” in which he operates a website where you can order milk gargled by pretty, college-educated white girls.
I followed him around Brooklyn as he transformed a couple white women into naked fashion accessories. I asked him a few questions along the way. Here’s what he had to say.
What’s “Trophy Scarves” about?
Well, there are people who see certain races as status symbols, and someone had to comment on that.
Is this a similar tone to what you were doing with “White Power Milk”?
Yeah. With “White Power Milk,” I just wanted to talk about how people see white women as a status symbol. With “Trophy Scarves,” I wanted to find another way to come at that. I guess it’s the same kind of satirical, tongue-in-cheek approach that I like to take with things. I like to talk about something serious but do it in a lighter, kind of a goofy way.
No Love Deep Web
Death Grips are like that psycho girl you dated in college who was the first person to ever tongue your butthole. It felt better than being on ketamine in space, but it came with the price of explaining to your parents why the nice girl you’ve been spending so much time with puked in their imitation Mycenaean vase. The Grips felt like life-changers when they dropped, but by now, we’re kinda over it and are ready to date erudite women who are sweet and do yoga and shit.
JAWN F. KENNEDY
Sometimes I feel like the rules of punk changed before I was old enough to play. It must have been sick 25 or so years ago to skate around all day, boozing, using, and listening to Melvins while spray-painting the words fake abortion clinic on anything that moved. This record is equal parts perfection and mind-numbing idiocy, but at least they’re touring with new material instead of trotting out the sort of ATP nostalgia trip that’s somehow considered acceptable these days.
I really hate this. I don’t know what Bad Religion is thinking, but there’s no such thing as God. All this music and culture are distractions from the very real horror of human violence and depravity that squirms like a bed of writhing snakes under society’s civil veneer. Law and order is a collective dream we can awaken from at any time. Soon there will come a day when the poor and downtrodden will no longer be placated with food stamps; instead they will sup on your entrails and blood, boiling your premature babies in a cauldron of bullion and duck fat. You’re dialing 911, but I have different numbers: 9mm, 12 gauge, and AR-15. It’s gonna make The Turner Diaries look like The Wizard of Oz.
BRADLEY “DIRTBOMB” BANKS
Paint with nature (via The Creators Project)
You’ve heard a lot from us about Sandy Kim. She’s been in our magazine and on our websitetons of times, mostly due to the fact that she’s one of our favorite photographers making work today. She mixes intelligent ideas with tits and dicks and a no-fucks-given attitude, and we love her for it. But can you believe she’s never had a solo show in her home city of New York? We can’t either. That all changes tonight. Our other good photo buddy, Lele Severi, one of the geniuses behind the Newsstand in the Lorimer L stop station, has opened a new space called Muddgutsthat will host workshops, signings, screenings, and art shows. of which Sandy’s is the first. It all happens tonight at 41 Montrose Ave. in Brooklyn, and you should definitely come. We hear there may be special guests!