Catholic Church in Slovakia censures "Pope Smoked Dope" exhibition

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Bratislava's City Gallery is hosting one of the most controversial art exhibitions in its history. That controversy begins with the title - "The Pope Smoked Dope." The Slovak Catholic Church has objected and there's been a general fuss in the media. Michal Groch had a word with the curator of this unusual exhibition, Zdenek Primus..

You have decided to entitle your exhibition the pope smoked dope. How did you come up with this controversial idea?

"There is an original album and song by David Peel called " The Pope smokes dope" and because this is a historical exhibition, I have changed the name into "The Pope smoked dope". The David's Peel vinyl record is also presented there of course. I think this title is sufficiently original and provocative, because the 60's certainly were provocative. "The Pope smoked dope" is a metaphor for being free, for liberating one's self from typical social bindings and also for destroying taboos."

What are the basic pillars of this exhibition?

"First of all - vinyl records. They are a perfect mean of bringing closer the atmosphere and spirit of 60's. Groups were trying to avoid the classic vinyl covers with faces on the top. Instead of this, they were searching for the adequate visual expression of their music reflected on the covers. Besides vinyl records, there are also psychedelic paintings from San Francisco which just have to be here, because they are simply magnificent. They are extremely rare in Europe."

How about the reactions of the audience here in Slovakia and Czech Republic?

"Well I can summarize it for the Czech Republic. The attendance was always high and people really enjoyed the exhibition. But I have never ever experienced something like here in Bratislava. Everybody, literally everybody jumped at the title of the exhibition. The Slovak Catholic Church, that has never seen this exhibition, immediately protested against it. They probably thought that the exhibition will contain pictures of Pope smoking a joint or something. The church has also filled an official complaint against the Czech Republic as if the Czech Republic was responsible for this exhibition!"

But it wasn't only the Church complaining...

"Then there was this Anti-narcotic Office claiming that I probably promote marihuana here! It is an absolute nonsense again, because this is an exhibition about music, emotions, about one special time period that is a part of our history! So I have had the best possible publicity, which was exactly what the Church did not want!"

A Spokesperson for the Catholic Church in Slovakia stated his objections to the title of the exhibition.

"We believe that it was very unfortunate to connect the Pope with drug using, because the Pope is a very close to every Catholic. The organizers of the exhibition should be more sensitive in using symbols like this."

The exhibition runs until the 28th of June at Bratislava's City Gallery. For more information go to www.gmb.sk, the site also contains the English version.