SHOCK FOR SHOCK'S SAKE:  CCP'S 'KULO' ART EXHIBIT, BLASPHEMOUS OR WORK OF ART?
 

MANILA, AUGUST 9, 2011 (INQUIRER) By: Lito B. Zulueta Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:30 am | Monday, August 8th, 2011 11 (The author is PDI Lifestyle section’s Arts and Books editor)

[THE IMAGES ARE:

1. A wooden rep of male genital in front of Jesus Christ image.
2. An image of Christ wherein his eyes had been darkened by ink.
3. Crucifix with condom.
4. Religious pictures beside women underwear models.
5. Seated Christ statue with red ball on His nose and a semi mickey mouse ears.
WORK OF ART OR 'KABASTUSAN'?]

 

The furor over Mideo M. Cruz’s “Polytheism” is understandable. In the true spirit of contemporary art, the work is calculated to be offensive; it is blasphemous and sacrilegious.

If modern art has the shock of the new, contemporary art has the jolt of the jugular. If modern art is art for art’s sake, contemporary art is shocking for shock’s sake.

Now we can’t get over the shock. And if “Polytheisms” is to be faulted at all, it is that its shock value has largely detracted the public from the larger picture of the exhibit, “Kulo.”

Curated by multimedia artist Jaime Pacena and Fine Arts professor Jocelyn Tullao-Calubayan, “Kulo,” ongoing at the Bulwagang Juan Luna (Main Gallery) of the Cultural Center of The Philippines (CCP), gathers artists and writers who have studied at the University of Santo Tomas, the cradle of modern art in the Philippines.

Although it is being held in conjunction with the 400th anniversary this year of UST, it is not sanctioned by the Dominicans; it is not an official UST Quadricentennial activity. The exhibit is also held in connection with the 150th birth anniversary of Jose Rizal, arguably the most prominent alumnus of UST. But again the caveat: The exhibit is not sanctioned by Rizalistas.

Although not officially sanctioned by the Pontifical University, “Kulo” is however a “Thomasian” enterprise. It cannot be avoided. “In essence, this is also an unofficial ‘All-Thomasian Artist Exhibition’ in relation to the 400th year celebration,” explained Tullao-Calubayan. “It hopes to re-evaluate the contributions of the Thomasian artists, outside the confines of the University structure itself, (and connect them) to the art dialogues and communities in the Philippines since the 1970s.”

The title of the exhibit refers to the state when things simmer and boil, obviously brought to that point by art coming into contact with the social and historical moment. And the exhibit has been able to achieve this through the works of the contributing artists, and not alone Mideo M. Cruz’s “Polytheisms.”

Esquillo, Team Manila

Entering the exhibit hall for example, one comes into contact immediately with Alfredo Esquillo’s painting, “Mama Kinley II,” a striking reworking of the Madonna and Child genre, portraying President William McKinley suckling a Filipino child looking much like Emilio Aguinaldo. All at once, the painting evokes a gamut of meanings related to Philippine history (the first republic in Asia nipped in the bud by an all-too presumptive new colonizer that claims it had the mandate to Christianize and civilize a people that had in fact already achieved those remarkably); to classical art, its reinvention by modern art, and the role of UST in Philippine art history (Galo Ocampo, one of the professors recruited by National Artist Victorio Edades when the latter founded the UST school of fine arts, for example, recast the Madonna and Child genre into his famous painting of the Brown Madonna, an indigenizing feat that appropriated and “naturalized” a western style); and of course, neo-colonialism and how the Philippines continues to draw cultural and economic nourishment from-and enslavement by-the US.

Andres Barrioquinto’s “Alam ng Diyos” (God Knows) largely operates on the same artistic strategy as Esquillo’s, remaking the portrait genre to provide the stark close-up of a grieving person while in the background, the whole world goes up in flames.

Some of the works openly embrace digital art with barely any reference to traditionall art. Pacena sets up a video installation using footage from his music videos. Buen Calubayan, who has done brilliant graphic works that may also rile religious sensibilities, is represented by a digital print on tarpaulin showing enlarged reproduction of images from his “Vanishing Point” paintings. The effect is a transfixing play on colors, figures and lines.

Team Manila, the trailblazing design firm owned and operated by UST fine arts alumni, is represented by its Andy Warhol-like take on Rizal iconography. The result is the medium becoming message: the national hero as a pop icon for the 21st century in more ways than one.

Rizal theme

The Rizal theme is echoed in writer Pocholo Gotia’s exhibit essay, “Hundreds and Hundreds of Years,” in which he comments on the uneasy relationship that has obtained across history between Rizal and UST. By now that history has been exposed an urban legend. Detractors point to the Anatomy Class episode in “El Filibusterismo” as proof of Rizal’s dislike of UST, but as scholars such as Florentino Hornedo, Jose David Lapus, Regalado Trota Jose, and Fr. Fidel Villarroel have pointed out, it’s by and large fiction and that Rizal didn’ t take up Physics in UST. They’ve also pointed out that elsewhere in the novel, too, Dominicans are portrayed sympathetically.

“The artists featured here did not produce work to commemorate the 400 years of the University of Santo Tomas, or the 150th birth anniversary of Jose Rizal,” Gotia writes about the artists, some of whom he says has had “spats” with UST. “Or, at least, that is my belief: they must have their personal reasons, that will, and must, remain their own, until we bear witness and into our hands they commend their spirit. But there is no denying they are here, they are now, and are as much under the shadow of our communal history as you or I.”

Gotia’s essay discloses the burden of history that UST carries as a relic of Spanish colonization. It also reveals that much of the burden has something to do with incorrect historiography and the incapacity of critics and detractors of the institution to question the premises of the judgments they make against it.

For example, Gotia says that the artists’ encounters have been “with the better 21st century version” of UST, in effect condemning much of the 400 years of the institution, indeed, the totality of Spanish colonization and Catholic evangelization. The remark at the least betrays characteristic liberal disregard of the cultural patrimony of the past, which infects as well Mideo M. Cruz’s work.

In his prose poem, young Filipino poet Joseph Saguid makes the same reference to the problematic relations between UST and the national hero and seems to suggests that the institution has made revisions of its history (presumably to deodorize it history?).

But Saguid also makes a prayer for a dialogue, the better to bridge the chasm of history and misunderstanding: Nais kong makita ang mga marka ng iyong pagbubura,” he writes ”. . . Tuwina sana tayong mag-usap upang makahanap ng alternatibong paraan ng pagpapakita/pagsasabi.”

Jose Tence Ruiz

But easily the most impressive work in the exhibit is Jose Tence Ruiz’s “CSI (Chimoy Si Imbisibol), a monochrome on print work with acrylic on canvas. It shows several hooded and obscured figures in different attitudes of labor and “busyness,” a powerful set of images of the Filipino as the global domestic. The figures are attired in clinical white, much like the forensic experts whose crime-lab work is minutely detailed in the violent American TV crime series, “CSI.”

The message is stark: The Filipino has systematically made a profession out of the diaspora. The pathos of the work cannot be missed.

Much like Saguid in his poem, Tullao-Calubayan has called for “dialogue” on the more controversial aspects of the exhibit, especially the work of Cruz.

Sadly their tact has not been adopted by CCP officials, who have arrogantly called the reaction to Cruz’s work as “moralist hysteria” and “religious myopia.”

The reaction by Catholics and other Christian groups to Cruz’s work is understandable. The installation features a collage of religious images and pictures of Christ, Mary the Mother of Christ, Holy Family, saints, and the rosary—all closely surrounded and placed beside pictures of women who appear to be modeling for underwear or a skin product; and a wooden cross draped with a pink stretched-out condom.

These are images intended to provoke and even offend. And provocation is part and parcel of contemporary art.

To their credit, Tullao-Calubayan and the other curators placed Cruz’s installation in a corner of the exhibit hall which one has to enter in order to witness. (This is somewhat the same set-up for another installation, Leobensant Marquez’s “Dogmatik Automatik,” in which a confessional box contains video footage of what appear to be images of folk Catholicism.)

One would have wished there had been a further sign making the Dantean warning to the viewer to “abandon all hope all ye who enter here,” but the curatorial strategy taken on Cruz’s work should indicate that the exhibit organizers did not deliberately intend to make an attack on religion with the works on show.

Iconoclastic

As contemporary art, Cruz’s work has all guns blazing to make its point: How religion has supposedly been commodified and how capitalist commerce has become the new religion. But his point is missed because conceptual art as always is all concept with art all woefully inadequate.

In his notes, Cruz says he inveighs against “polytheisms” such as Christianity commodified and today’s prevalent neoliberalism. But his images of Christianity are all drawn from Catholic popular iconography and he commits the same misconception about Catholic images—that their veneration is a form of idol-worship rejected by Old-Testament monotheism. He links this idol-mania with capitalist advertising, which embodies neoliberalism.

At the least, it could be said that Cruz has a stunted view of Catholicism: He doesn’t seem to have matured beyond the childhood horror of icons of the Blessed Mother and her seven dagger-dolors and of the bloodied image of the Santo Entierro brought out on Good Friday.

Cruz also seems impervious to the historic hostility between the Catholic Church and modern liberalism. In fact, the Church’s social teachings continue to condemn liberal capitalism for its excesses, its eager rush for progress for the sake of progress.

Cruz’s work lacks self-reflexivity. While he proclaims his work as a historico-cultural critique, he doesn’t seem aware that his version of Philippine history—“being 400 years under Spain and several years in Hollywood,” as his notes say—is a liberal cliché.

Cruz’s work is iconoclastic art in the most literal sense of the term. It is iconoclastic art that ironically uses iconography—as crafted by Catholic art and image—fashioning across 2,000 years—to state its point and make its critique. Simply based on the premise of its revolt, it is art whose attitude is mercenary, that is, hopelessly liberal and capitalist.

With all of its conceptual and material contradictions, Mideo M. Cruz’s work collapses from the weight of its plurosignifications. It’s not art, it’s a mess.

Contemporary aesthetics insists, nay pontificates, that all art is political, that is, in the true spirit of postmodernism, that art is determined by economics, history and linguistics. But the CCP leadership has expressed surprise at the political reaction to Cruz’s work, insisting on the autonomy and independence of the creative spirit and attacking the alleged forces of hysteria and obscurantism.

Not even taking the postmodern tack at self-criticism, the CCP seems to ignore the fact that it is an institution of the state, and that it has an uncomfortable history that has made it at one time, wittingly or unwittingly, complicit with totalitarianism.

Considering all that has happened, has Mideo M. Cruz really missed out on the one totem pole that must be toppled and smashed?

Originally posted at 01:39 am | Monday, August 08, 2011

 
[FROM SENSOUS TO SWEET: A multi-awarded Filipino artist draws
inspiration from different kinds of women as he launches his solo exhibit
this month. Works to be included in "Femme Series" by Eros Basilio
feature women taking on different roles and guises -- from the enigmatic face
of a veiled medieval woman in "Tabernaculum" and the innocent girl
in "Dream of Aliya" to the sensuous figure in "The Dancer."

FROM BUSINESSWORLD ONLINE http://server2.interfuel.com/weekender/content.php?id=35478

Boiling over blasphemy Posted on 05:00 PM, July 28, 2011

TEXT and PHOTOS BY SAM L. MARCELO, Senior Reporter

EXHIBIT Kulo Ongoing until Aug. 21 Bulwagang Juan Luna, 3rd floor, Cultural Center of the Philippines, CCP Complex, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City

IF CATHOLIC clergymen had kept quiet, if Archbishop Oscar Cruz hadn’t called the exhibit “sickening,” if he hadn’t called the artist “sick,” if he hadn’t advised the artist to see a psychiatrist, if he hadn’t implied that the artist’s sexuality was abnormal, if Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez hadn’t called for a boycott, then Mideo Cruz’s Poleteismo could have gone unnoticed by the larger public.

[PHOTO AT LEFT - DETAILS of Mideo Cruz’s multimedia installation Poleteismo DETAILS of Mideo Cruz’s multimedia installation Poleteismo]

Instead, ad hominem attacks against the artist -- “supposed artist,” according to a member of the Catholic laity -- have roused the curiosity of individuals, who are now buzzing about the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) looking for the piece that was branded “controversial” and “sacrilegious.”

When they find it in one of the alcoves of the Main Gallery, they will see multicolored plastic piggy banks stuffed inside a case usually reserved for religious statues; and Christ the King with a bright red clown nose, his right hand replaced by a Mickey Mouse glove, and his head crowned with Mickey Mouse ears made from a Coke can.

Hanging behind a divider is a cross with a bright red penis thrusting out from the vertical bar. And on the walls, a multimedia collage composed of a confusion of images and objects: there are ads, political paraphernalia from Fernando Poe, Jr., Gilbert Teodoro, and Barack Obama; there are religious posters of Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary and the Holy Family; there are handouts, pamphlets and stickers; there are rosaries, penis ashtrays, crucifixes, condoms and Christmas lights; there’s a lot of stuff.

“There’s nothing there that you won’t see in Quiapo,” said Karen O. Flores, officer-in-charge of the CCP Visual Arts Unit.

Several things must be made clear. Poleteismo is part of Kulo, a group exhibit organized by alumni artists from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) who wanted to contribute a show in time for Jose Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary and UST’s 400th anniversary. It features old and new work from UST graduates such as Jose “Bogie” Tence Ruiz, Ronald Ventura and Mark Salvatus.

Kulo’s title comes from the Filipino term for “a state of boiling,” and is also associated with rage and irritation. According to curators, the exhibit is framed as a “discourse of the pen and the sword, education and revolution.” Kulo is not sanctioned by the UST, which wanted to have its name removed from the exhibition text after Mr. Cruz’s piece became a hot potato (the University’s request was denied by the CCP since nowhere does it say that Kulo is an “official” UST event).

Poleteismo is an old piece first shown in 2002 at the Vargas Museum of the University of the Philippines. Mr. Cruz wasn’t thinking of the Reproductive Health Bill when he conceived Poleteismo nine years ago.

What he was thinking then -- as now -- is found on the accompanying wall text, which tells viewers patient enough to read that his intent was -- and still is -- to “speak of idolatry and the deconstruction of neo-deities.”

However, in an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld, Mr. Cruz added that he doesn’t want to interfere with how the artwork will affect the sensibilities of his audience. “My role usually stops after producing the final image,” he said. “As a visual artist, the images I create contain more explanation than my words. Images are open to various interpretations on the basis of the viewer’s perspective, maturity and imagination.”

Versions of the installation have been exhibited elsewhere, most notably in 2007 in the lobby of the Loyola House of Studies (LHS) -- a seminary inside the campus of the Ateneo de Manila University -- as part of Tutok: Nexus, a group exhibit organized in cooperation with Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB), “an association of religious priests, seminarians and lay people committed to the service of the Filipino Church and the Filipino nation.”

If Catholic clergymen had kept quiet, if Archbishop Oscar Cruz hadn’t called the exhibit “sickening,” if he hadn’t called the artist “sick,” if he hadn’t advised the artist to see a psychiatrist, if he hadn’t implied that the artist’s sexuality was abnormal, if Bishop Deogracias Iniguez hadn’t called for a boycott, then Mideo Cruz’s Poleteismo could have gone unnoticed by the larger public.

When they find it in one of the alcoves of the Main Gallery, they will see multicolored plastic piggy banks stuffed inside a case usually reserved for religious statues; and Christ the King with a bright red clown nose, his right hand replaced by a Mickey Mouse glove, and his head crowned with Mickey Mouse ears made from a Coke can.

Hanging behind a divider is a cross with a bright red penis thrusting out from the vertical bar. And on the walls, a multimedia collage composed of a confusion of images and objects: there are ads, political paraphernalia from Fernando Poe Junior, Gilbert Teodoro, and Barack Obama; there are religious posters of Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary, and the Holy Family; there are handouts, pamphlets, and stickers; there are rosaries, penis ashtrays, crucifixes, condoms, and Christmas lights; there’s a lot of stuff.

“Thereís nothing there that you won’t see in Quiapo,” said Karen O. Flores, officer-in-charge of the CCP Visual Arts Unit.

Several things must be made clear. Poleteismo is part of Kulo, a group exhibit organized by alumni artists from the University of Santo Tomas (UST) who wanted to contribute a show in time for Jose Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary and UST 400th anniversary. It features old and new work from UST graduates such as Jose “Bogie” Tence Ruiz, Ronald Ventura, and Mark Salvatus.

Kulo’s title comes from the Filipino term for “a state of boiling,” and is also associated with rage and irritation. According to curators, the exhibit is framed as a “discourse of the pen and the sword, education and revolution.” Kulo is not sanctioned by the UST, which wanted to have its name removed from the exhibition text after Mr. Cruz’s piece became a hot potato (the University’s request was denied by the CCP since nowhere does it say that Kulo is an “official” UST event).

Poleteismo is an old piece first shown in 2002 at the Vargas Museum of the University of the Philippines. Mr. Cruz wasn’t thinking of the Reproductive Health Bill when he conceived Poleteismo nine years ago.

What he was thinking then -- as now -- is found on the accompanying wall text, which tells viewers patient enough to read that his intent was -- and still is -- to “speak of idolatry and the deconstruction of neo-deities.” However, in an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld, Mr. Cruz added that he doesn’t want to interfere with how the artwork will affect the sensibilities of his audience. “My role usually stops after producing the final image,” he said. “As a visual artist, the images I create contain more explanation than my words. Images are open to various interpretations on the basis of the viewer’s perspective, maturity, and imagination.”

Versions of the installation have been exhibited elsewhere, most notably in 2007 in the lobby of the Loyola House of Studies (LHS) -- a seminary inside the campus of the Ateneo de Manila University -- as part of Tutok: Nexus, a group exhibit organized in cooperation with Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB), “an association of religious priests, seminarians and lay people committed to the service of the Filipino Church and the Filipino nation.”

Mr. Cruz did not hear any aggressive comments from the priests of LHS, even if his piece lived with them for more than a month. In his opinion, the exhibit was “well-received, well-attended, and well-promoted” inside the Ateneo campus. Regardless, he understands where his current critics are coming from. “The moral uproar of some Catholic devotees is as valid as the profundities of my work,” he said.

But, he added, the threats he has received just proves the ugliness reflected in his work. His Facebook page has received a wealth of comments from a poster who goes by the name Rozanna Martini. Ms. Martini called Mr. Cruz a “fucking asshole” among many other things.

She also demanded that Mr. Cruz be given the death penalty, after which his soul -- which she believes he has already sold to the devil -- may rest in the fiery furnace of hell.

“My images are mere representations of things we see in ourselves,” said Mr. Cruz. “We need to realize that [Poleteismo] is the mirror of our society and of ourselves. The uproar it created might be the unconscious denial of seeing ourselves truthfully. The reality of our society is the real blasphemy of our own image; the blasphemy of our sacred self.”

Asked if he was a Catholic, Mr. Mideo replied that nobody lives inside a vacuum. “We all grew up sharing the same culture as the only Christian nation in Asia. I grew up celebrating Christmas and waiting for Santa Claus the same as everybody else,” he said.

It also bears saying that Mr. Cruz is not a “supposed artist” but an artist, a lauded one who has received a Thirteen Artist Award from the CCP in 2003, an Ateneo Art Award in 2006, and numerous international grants and residencies. He has exhibited and participated in art events in more than 10 countries, including the United States.France, Italy, and Germany.

Poleteismo is characteristic of his practice, often critical and unimpressed by authority. When Mr. Cruz was in America on a grant from an American institution, he created a performance piece attacking American consumerism and imperialism. “He was biting the hand that was feeding him,” laughed Ms. Flores.

Since the controversy over Poleteismo exploded, the CCP’s Visual Arts Unit has been fielding calls from people requesting that Kulo be shut down. “The CCP will not be party to any censorship or suppression. Let it be a point of discussion,” said Ms. Flores, adding that she has seen works at the CCP that were “really, really, really more provocative and disturbing.” (Jose Legaspi’s installation in the Small Gallery, for example, which included a modified Pieta showing the Virgin Mother vomiting on the dead Christ.)

She added that she was surprised by the vehement reactions coming from lay leaders and higher clergy. “They’re not coming from positions of inquiry or consultation. They’re telling people what to do,” she sighed. “We want to encourage sober discussion so that tolerance can be achieved. Art is about dialog and discourse.”

The CCP, she continued, has no plans of giving in to pressure. “CCP has not bowed down to Presidents of the Republic, so why is it going to bow down to the leaders of the laity?” said Ms. Flores. “Let the public see the exhibit.”

“I personally find the exhibit offensive,” said Melo Acuna, online radio manager of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), who was part of a contingent inspecting Kulo. “I see no furtherance of Filipino culture in the exhibit. It is the CCP’s responsibility to serve the public diligently. What diligence is the CCP exercising?” (As of writing, the CBCP has not issued a formal statement regarding Kulo.)

According to the general exhibition policies of CCP’s Visual Arts Unit, review criteria include “sensitive awareness of the artist’s responsibility to Philippine art and society” and “consistency with the CCP’s goals, scope, and program for the year.” Proposals may be disqualified based on several reasons, among them if they are “prejudicial to the rights and welfare of other people.”

“Poleteismo is social criticism, and it is part of social development to criticize what’s happening,” said Ms. Flores. Regarding concerns that Kulo might be prejudicial against the rights of Catholics, she pointed out that Mr. Cruz was educated in UST, a Catholic university, and his piece is a legitimate critique.

Nothing is new about contemporary art and religion butting heads.

Well-known cases include Piss Christ, a 1987 photograph by artist and photographer Andres Serrano, which shows a crucifix floating in a golden sea of urine. Based on its formal value, art critic Lucy R. Lippard judged it “a darkly beautiful photographic image -- both ominous and glorious.” Others were less enthralled.

The Holy Vigin Mary by Chris Ofili also caused a stir when it arrived in the Brooklyn Museum of Art in 1999 as part of group exhibit titled Sensation. In the Village Voice, art critic Jerry Saltz wrote: “To describe the painting is to know this image is many things, but not what its detractors make of it. A very black woman cloaked in a stippled, Prussian-blue robe hovers over an intricate golden ground of enamel dots and glitter. Her mantle is open to reveal a black breast made of elephant dung and festooned with pins. The painting rests on two clumps of dung; one is decorated with the word Virgin, the other with the word Mary.”

Rudy Giuliani, then mayor of New York and a Catholic, attempted to pull the museum’s funding and have it evicted because he found Mr. Ofili’s painting “sick.” In turn, the Brooklyn Museum filed a lawsuit against Mr. Giuliani for breach of the First Amendment and won.

J. Pacena II, curator of Kulo, said that he was saddened by the malice of initial reports. “I’m disappointed in the media. There was no discussion or due process,” he said in a phone interview, adding that a TV program seemed to provoke attacks on Mr. Cruz. “No one tried to understand what he was trying to say. He was condemned and we were judged in a primitive way,” he continued in the vernacular. (A report quoted Archbishop Cruz as saying that organizers of the exhibit “became lesser persons because of what they did.”)

Threats and insults directed towards the artist, Mr. Pacena went on, are uncalled for. “Talk about the work,” he said, adding that viewers should see Poleteismo in the context of the exhibit. “The discussion has gone off in a different direction and focus. Everything about Kulo is concentrated on Mideo’s work, which, admittedly, has very strong imagery, but the point of the exhibit is discourse and that’s what we need right now.”

FROM ABS-CBN NEWS

Catholic lay groups threaten to sue CCP over controversial artworks By Caroline J. Howard, ANC Posted at 08/03/2011 3:44 PM | Updated as of 08/03/2011 6:22 PM

[PHOTO - Art pieces exhibited at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) - A crucifix with a wooden penis and a Christ the King figurine with rabbit ears.]

These and other art pieces exhibited at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) have earned the ire of various lay Catholic groups who are now considering the filing of charges against those behind the "sacrilegious and blasphemous" art exhibit.

MANILA, Philippines - Various Catholic lay groups threatened to take legal action against the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) if its controversial exhibit is not closed before 6 p.m. on Thursday.

Atty. Jo Imbong, executive director of the St. Thomas More Society Inc., said they may file charges against the CCP for violating Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code, which penalizes the exhibition of offensive material.

"There is a provision in the Penal Code which penalizes the exhibition of works which offend religion. That might be one possibility. Or a civil suit which requires the closure of the exhibit," Imbong said on ANC's "The Rundown" on Tuesday.

"What we have done so far is give notice to the CCP through president Dr. Raul Sunico and gave him 48 hours to close the exhibit. I spoke to him and he promised to promptly act on our letter."

The works fanning controversy are images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary which were adorned with objects not related to Christianity -- from a crucifix with a wooden penis to a Christ the King figurine with rabbit ears.

These are part of an exhibit titled "Kulo," which features works of some 30 artists from the University of Santo Tomas (UST). They proposed the exhibit, which was launched on June 17, in line with the institution's 400th anniversary.

"Apparently, the use of Christ's image, Christ's face, the rosary, the crucifix and interspersing it with the male organ, broken crucifixes piercing the eyes and forehead of Christ...the message that's delivered here is one of mockery and vandalism that hurts the sensibilities of the Christian community," Imbong said.

Imbong said those who have visited the exhibit, which is open to the public, have called "Kulo" an "insult to their faith."

She added that even some of CCP's staff "were revolted by it."

"The role of the CCP is to promote excellent Filipino aesthetics and positive Filipino cultural values and national identity. My question is, is it our identity to mock and vandalize religious icons? Is that the Filipino pride that the CCP is supposed to foster? Are we going to be proud of what destroys revered symbols? That's not Filipino at all and that is contrary to the mandate of CCP," she said.

'Legitimate' art

CCP chairperson Emily Abrera, however, stands by the legitimacy of the exhibit, saying that it promotes intelligent debate.

"We see nothing wrong with the works, exhibit," she said.

"I don't know if they've viewed the entire exhibit. Mr. Medeo Cruz's installation is one of the 32 artists and I think we should take it as part of the exhibit. This is part of the dialogue of the discourse, part of social community. Not all art is for aesthetic purposes...and that is the context from which the exhibit must be taken.

"It is part of our culture to question, it is part of our culture to seek answers, to look behind the surface and dig out what our real values are. This is a time for questioning for many."

While art is, after all, a form of expression, Imbong maintained that such expression has its limits and that artists have a social responsibility.

"Unlike any other form of speech, (art) has its limits. It is not absolute. The law admonishes respect of the belief of others," she said.

The CCP, meanwhile, will hold a public forum on the exhibit at its main gallery on August 5 from 2 to 5 p.m. as a result of the incident.

Educators, representatives of religious organizations, art practitioners and experts on culture and law are invited to take part in the discussion.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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