Not the Onion

Not the Onion August 2, 2017

Ottawa Archbishop surprised (!) by negative reaction to robotic spider on cathedral

Because who would think that this sends some kind of weird, creepy message?

A giant mechanical spider is seen during an art performance in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica in Ottawa July 27. (CNS/Reuters)


The spider, named Kumo, is one of two giant robots created by a street theater company of artists, technicians and performers based in Nantes, France. The company, La Machine, was in Ottawa July 27-30 as part of celebrations marking Canada’s 150th birthday.

The spectacle of robots, music and other special effects drew tens of thousands to Ottawa’s downtown.

The show opened July 27 in the evening, with Kumo “waking up” to organ music from inside the cathedral. As the spider, suspended from cranes, climbed off its perch between the towers, “snow” fell from above as part of the event’s special effects.

“I don’t understand how allowing a mechanical spider to stand on the cathedral is anything but disturbing, disappointing and even shameful,” wrote Diane Bartlett on the archbishop’s Facebook wall.

Others defended the archbishop’s decision.

“While the viewer may find the juxtaposition jarring, I gather it’s supposed to be,” wrote Kris Dmytrenko. “But sacrilegious? C’mon, give your archbishop a break. This civic engagement with art recalls the Vatican’s Courtyard of the Gentiles project. Culture is a bridge.”

The decision to participate in the show was motivated by a desire to engage with the wider Ottawa community, said Archbishop Prendergast.

“We make use of the city to obtain permits for our events, and they are most cooperative,” he said. “The Good Friday Way of the Cross lets us have access to public venues (Supreme Court, Parliament Hill, the plaza in front of the National Gallery), and the police offer a security escort.

“We try to be good citizens, good neighbors and cooperative,” he said.

“To the extent that we did see symbolism, it was that, afterward, Our Lady would continue to reign, something I mentioned in a tweet right after the Thursday performance, as people I respect began to make their objections known.”

I think this story is absolutely hilarious.  It reminds me of Sheriff Carter in Eureka, throwing rocks at the crazed Titan robot and shouting, “And that’s for your unnecessarily creepy design!”

As to the whole “sacrilege!” shriek, I’m not feeling it.  Don’t these people remember mystery plays?  Actual *hellmouths* were routinely built in and and around medieval Churches and cathedrals and demons scampered about pulling souls down to damnation.  The Church engages culture.  That’s it’s job, not creating museums for the piously withdrawn.

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