Device to Root Out Evil

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Device to Root out Evil
Photo by Flickr user whistlepunch.
CC (some rights reserved)

The Canadian Press is reporting that the controversial sculpture, Device to Root Out Evil, located for the last 2 years in down-town Vancouver in a prominent location near Stanley Park, will be coming down.

From the Globe and Mail:

The decision to remove the sculpture, approved unanimously by Vancouver Park Board commissioners this week, has dismayed those who wanted to keep the piece’s topsy-turvy church spire where it is, firmly planted in the grass of Harbour Green Park.

And it has rekindled debate on the role of public art in a city that yearns for world-class status but often succumbs, in the eyes of critics, to small-town thinking.

“The Park Board couldn’t find a way to rise above the history and controversy of this sculpture,” George Wagner, an associate professor at the University of B.C. school of architecture, said yesterday.

The sculpture of an upside-down chapel has had a controversial life. First, it was rejected by the director of New York City’s public art fund when he cited fears that religious leaders would be offended.

A few years later, Standford University in California backed out of a deal to buy the sculpture after extensive complaints by churchgoers.

Now that the Vancouver Parks Board have voted to remove this artwork citing, “community pressure”, they are taking public opinions on the decision at the next board meeting.

The artist, Dennis Oppenheim, denies any anti-religious design to the piece.

Personally, I don’t readily grasp the offensive nature of an upside-down-church. What is it that makes this artwork offensive and should it go?

10 thoughts on “Device to Root Out Evil

  1. I’m more cynical and tend to assume the people complaining are offended at the idea of “Christian church = good” that could be read out of it.

  2. At least you are all thinking about it which is great. To me it is more to do with the character of North America and Canada and my impression of it. I can’t see much religious significance. It is fun, thought provoking and original. The Christian Church is “a grown up Church”, taking criticism and “people throwing stones” on the chin, but listening and amending its ways if necessary, not trying to “remove the beam” but “turning the other cheek”. But then I don’t see this work as critical and certainly not evil.

    I have left a post on my blog.

  3. I was just saying something about this yesterday. It is almost impossible to please everybody, everywhere with something, be it art, a newsletter, a blog, etc. Somebody is going to dislike it. What I have noticed is that people are more apt to be loud about there opinion when they dislike something…you never hear about someone really liking something because it just doesn’t make news.

  4. Keep it where it is. The sculpture fits in well with the architecture that surrounds it and the city as it is now. Thirty years ago Vancouver was a beautiful city in the most idyllic setting. Since then massive immigration from across Canada, and every corner of the planet, has forced the city’s planners to accommodate the new citizens and allowed construction of skyscrapers on every city block. The setting of snowcapped mountains and harbour waters, when you can see them through the haze caused by gridlocked traffic, are still very beautiful. The city now boasts a murder rate second to none and a homeless rate equivalent to countries less privileged.

    Three years ago Vancouver’s mayor and parks board cancelled another piece of art that commemorated the City’s past, “The Welcoming” a 9ft tall bronze sculpture:

    “Device to Root Out Evil” should remain where it is.

  5. I’m a Christian and I remember walking past the sculpture last summer. I examined it closely and looked at the title. I was ignorant to the idea that turning something upside down was a sign of disrespect. I did not see the artist’s view of the church pointing to hell either. In my opinion, the church, in it’s pure form, does quite the opposite. I simply took the title literally and imagined the church as a gardening tool that is used to dig out roots. I made the analagy of the church pointing out, and standing against the evil that lurks in the hearts of mankind. Many evil things have been dealt with by the church and even evil that has developed within the church has often been “rooted out” by it’s own members. ei: Martin Luther started the reformation that caused the Catholic church to re-examine it’s practices. Willian Wilberforce was behind the abolition of the slave trade.

    I can understand the contraversy over this sculpture and believe that in our democratic society, we need to respect the feelings of those around us. Many pieces of “public” artwork are enjoyed by everyone. Let the contraversial pieces be displayed in private for those who choose to see them.

  6. Man that is one of the best peices of art I have ever seen. I like when I see some really controversial art it is actually the best type of art that is out there. It is so sad to see people moan and groan about art that they don’t like. I wish they would just go away because in my opinion if they don’t want to see it then they should just turn their head and quit complaining.

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