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Suspicions of Sa†anism Spur Seizure of Ar†is†’s Sculp†ures

Photo by Gaby Zarazir
One of Michel Elefteriades’ confiscated sculptures (photo by Gaby Zarazir, all images courtesy the artist)

It appears that toting around any horned animal sculptures is enough to suggest one’s connection to Satanism — or at least that appears to be the case in Lebanon, where authorities recently confiscated such sculptures created by the Greek-Lebanese politician and artist Michel Eléftériades, deeming him a Satan worshiper.

In an email to Hyperallergic, Eléftériades said police arrested a worker on January 6 at the factory that casts the bronzes for his sculptures, then summoned him to the police station to sort out the situation. When Eléftériades arrived, authorities interrogated him for six hours, making him explain the meaning of works he has been making for years. They then seized over 20 large bronzes, from a multi-horned sheep’s head atop a pile of coins to a piggy bank on a pile of human skulls, interpreting them as satanist symbols. Horns have long been associated with the devil; Baphomet, the goat-headed figure standing as the official symbol of the Church of Satan, is often depicted with a prominent set.

Michel Elefteriades (click to enlarge)
Michel Elefteriades (click to enlarge)

“It was surrealistic! Absurd! Kafkaesque!” Eléftériades said. “The officer asked me, you are an important, wealthy man. Why do you waste your time on sculpting? He asked me what I intend to do with it, and he asked me why my sculptures are so repulsive.”

According to Le Figaro, Eléftériades has condemned the accusations as part of a conspiracy to intimidate him, pointing fingers specifically at the right-wing Lebanese Forces, the second largest Christian party holding seats in parliament. A high-profile political activist, Eléftériades has led numerous movements against the government, with a recent one highlighting government failure to provide proper electric and water systems to its citizens.

“There are pigs (piggy banks symbolize capitalism) and some horns (symbolic of submission to the establishment) and a few skulls (memento mori),” Eléftériades said. “They had another interpretation of it … they thought they could ruin my reputation with that. They leaked my arrest to their media and invented things, making it very dramatic while I was still being interrogated.”

 

One of Michel Elefteriades' confiscated sculptures (all images courtesy the artist)
One of Michel Elefteriades’ confiscated sculptures

Lebanese law does not explicitly condemn Satanism, but it does consider blasphemy a criminal offense, and those found guilty of the crime may receive jail time. Lebanese authorities, though, have apparently been on the hunt specifically for Satanists: in 2011, officials arrested eight people suspected of devil worship; over 50 were arrested in 2003 on similar grounds. NOW, a Lebanon-focused news website, looked into the pattern of arrests of “Satanists” — many of whom are part of the heavy metal community — and even date the start of the investigations to 1996, “when a high-ranking military officer’s son, a fan of heavy metal, shot himself with his father’s gun.”

Eléftériades’ sculptures are now stored for an indefinite period in a guarded warehouse and will be examined to confirm whether or not they do stand as satanic symbols. A Lebanese judge allegedly has plans to destroy two of the works if they fail to pass that test (no word on the science and methodology of that process, though).

A sculpture by Michel Elefteriades (photo by Gaby Zarazir)
A sculpture by Michel Elefteriades (photo by Gaby Zarazir)
A sculpture by Michel Elefteriades (photo by Gaby Zarazir)
A sculpture by Michel Elefteriades (photo by Gaby Zarazir)
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