Untitled (Knifed to Death, I and II), is a 1992 diptych of photographs by the controversial artist Andres Serrano. These photos are part of the artist's morgue series in which he photographed bodies in a morgue. He knew nothing of the subjects except the manner in which they died. Here two hands are displayed with cuts on the wrists from being knifed to death. The fingers bear black ink from the efforts to identify the victim. The diptych presentation creates a connotation of the crucified Christ.
Messiaen’s commentary for VII. Regard de la Croix (Gaze of the Cross):
“Theme of the Star and Cross. The Cross says to him: you will be a priest in my arms …”
To end this week of hope we must dwell upon the ultimate hope in Christ's life; his death. These photos are repulsive and difficult to look at. If art is supposed to be beautiful, it is hard to call this art. The studio lighting with such a strong contrast is reminiscent of a Rembrandt painting but it does little to outweigh the lifeless human form. The wounds glare at us.
The music is a slow assent that builds but then calmly recedes with far less jarring moments than the songs we have heard so far. It feels like a strong statement of authority given sternly but softly.
The beauty of the baby boy is a firm affirmation that he will be sacrificed. It is as if the music ends with this definitive statement.
Even though Serrano's work is unsettling and uncomfortable I think that it is true. Before seeing his work I do not think I could have imagined that dead bodies could be used to make me think of the triumph of the crucifixion. Dead bodies are ugly and repulsive, especially when they are the victims of violence. I try my best to avoid looking at them both out of fear and a hope to deny the harsh reality of the world around me. Yet here, no matter the life this person had, their hands bear similar marks to the marks of Christ.
This person could not know that this would be found despite their horrific demise. This is the power of Christ. It redeems even that which seems beyond redemption. The hope of the coming of Christ is that he will be broken by our hands so that we might live. Christ can take an unnamed body that was knifed to death and make it resemble his act of sacrifice. That is, because of Christ, an artist can see that which transcends in the lowly material of the here and now no matter the ugliness.
Can I stand to look upon Christ's sacrifice with hope?