It’s not often you get a chance to use that phrase. I’m deeply grateful to an unsung staff reporter on the Sun for unleashing it on an unsuspecting world in this 2007 article, ‘Rude Buddha’ causes outrage. It was later lifted almost word for word in a Metro article – Cops probe Rude Buddha – a headline so brilliant you can forgive them the plagiarism.
The genitalia in question – a banana and two eggs – are welded onto a bog-standard statue of a seated Buddha. The work, by artist Colin Self, was probably considered rude by the good people of Norwich for a number of reasons. A banana and two eggs are surely innocent objects in themselves, but placed in the lap of a seated figure in an upstanding position, they acquire a whole new meaning. Then there’s the bronze colour of the foodstuffs, which stands out against the black of the Buddha. Finally, there’s the position of the hand curled in the lap – a classic meditation posture – suggesting an alternative activity is taking place. I’m reminded of a greeting card, with the picture of a seated mystic and the caption, “If that’s the sound of one hand clapping, I wonder what the other hand is doing?” Oh, and the statue was facing out into the street.
A Trilogy: The Iconoclasts is actually a witty spoof, melding ideas of sacred art with pop art, and evoking all the metaphorical associations of bananas and eggs. It’s a pity some people were so prudish as to complain to the police, forcing the gallery owner to turn it round so it faced into the shop. But I’d be surprised if it didn’t sell very quickly with all the free publicity. Perhaps Self got his friends to make the complaints.
So thanks to that staff reporter for adding an essential phrase to the English language – I hope it goes viral.