POLETEISMO: WHO IS MIDEO CRUZ AND WHY ARE PEOPLE BAYING FOR HIS HEAD?
MANILA, AUGUST 16, 2011 (BULATLAT.COM) Ina Alleco R. Silverio, Bulatlat.com - Or at least boycott his exhibit.
[PHOTO - Controversial artist Mideo Cruz says that he never goes out of his way to offend; “But I do like to provoke debates and critical thinking. Art is a way of expressing one’s views about the world, culture and history, and this is what I do in my work. The audience is free to make their own conclusions and interpretations about the images I create, but I must confess I didn’t expect anyone to react so violently against ‘Poleteismo.’(Photos by Ina Alleco Silverio / bulatlat.com)]
Off with his head! Or at least boycott his exhibit.
Artist Mideo Cruz is now at the eye of one of the biggest controversies in the Philippine visual arts scene. His latest work “Poleteismo” is being vilified left and right by various religious groups and influential leaders, and an ABS-CBN reporter has even come out with a column suggesting that he, Cruz, should be forced to drink muriatic acid.
Cruz’ “Poleteismo” is part of the exhibit “KULÔ”, group exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Main Gallery showing until August 21, 2011.
It was launched on June 17 on the occasion of CCP’s celebration of Jose Rizal’s 150th birthday.
TV Patrol’s Mark Logan in his column in the tabloid Abante said many were incensed when they saw the TV Patrol report on Cruz and his exhibition.
[Photo of MIDEO CRUZ in front of his artwork &
last week on the GOOGLE IMAGES]
Logan suggested that those who were angered by how Cruz put together his installation art and murals depicting – among many other concepts — religious icons should kill Cruz.
“Don’t you have pity for this person? Just because he put black tears on the face of Jesus Christ. Will you beat him up when you see him? Stab him, strangle him or push him into a creek? But before this, will you make him drink muriatic acid and then have him shot by a motorcycle-riding tandem? It’s too much! Don’t you have any respect for someone like him who’s an ‘artist’?
“Maybe as you’re taking a walk you might get beat up by those you offended to the extreme. With today’s technology, news travels fast! You see buddy, if you say that you have rights, what about the rights of Catholics and other sects who believe that Jesus is God? ”
Logan went on to seemingly address Cruz: “If you’re an atheist or if you believe in no god, don’t violate the beliefs of others! This is a predominantly Catholic country, my boy…”
The reporter went on to say that Cruz’ work was the sort that only a pig would believe to be “art.” His parting shot was to say that Cruz shouldn’t ask the media for help because the media doesn’t have the ability to protect him from being lynched.
Cruz’ Facebook page in the last two weeks has also been bombarded with insults and threats, with many accusing him of, among other things, being a veritable henchman of Satan himself defiling Christ and His Holy Family.
Around 11:30 am on August 4, guards of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CPP) were surprised to discover that Cruz’ work had been vandalized. A Facebook account under the name “CPP Visual Artists” released a statement saying that the security aides were unable to apprehend the vandals, but the CPP has already taken steps to avert further damage to the exhibits.
“We request the arts and culture community to keep vigilant but let us maintain a dignified stance about this. We will not be equal to the rage and extremism of other entities. As you may recall, the CCP has always maintained that freedom of expression extends to all; not just to artists but to those who wish to speak up for their religious and spiritual beliefs within proper means and venues,” it said.
Among the messages the vandals scrawled across various parts of Cruz work was “Emedeo Cruz (I.N.C.) Sumpain ka, Bakla” and “Bakla Parusahan Ka” (Curse You, Homosexual, Homosexual you should be punished).
CCP Visual Arts called for sobriety in the wake of angry pronouncements both in mainstream media and social networks in the internet against Cruz’ “Poleteismo. ”
Archbishop Oscar Cruz , former president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, has called for a boycott of the exhibit.
The group Pro-Life Philippines, in the meantime, has threatened to file charges against the CCP and called the exhibition “sacrilegious and blasphemous. ” Pro-Life President Eric Manalang has been quoted on CBCP News as saying that if the CCP does not stop the exhibit, and make amends, it will proceed with the charges.
“Stopping it is not enough. The damage has been done,” Manalang told CBCP News. He did not say what kind of damage had been wrought and against whom.
[Photo - Cultural Center of the Philippines Theatre for the Performing Arts; Tanghalang Pambansa (National Theatre) at night]
CCP Visual Arts said these reactions and courses of action are all valid as moral and legal resorts of those who feel offended by art. “And though art is representation and does not pretend to be anything more than art, we would like to remind anyone else who are considering violent and destructive acts against art, artists and art institutions that such acts are clearly criminal. Let us all be proper, respectful and tolerant despite our different views. Not all of us are Catholics, not all of us are artists, yet we are all deserving of honor and dignity,” it said.
Critics against “Poleteismo” seem to be ignorant of the fact that it has been exhibited since 2002 in venues such as the Loyola School of Theology in Ateneo de Manila University, UP Vargas Museum, Kulay Diwa in Paranaque City, and was also featured in the music video of Anghel sa Lupa by Stonefree. Cruz has recreated the piece every time it was presented for exhibition. As for the other “culprit,” the CCP explained that it accepted the exhibition proposal and the artworks based on the determination of the premise that these are legitimate art expressions by artists who have already established reputable track records through national and global awards, grants and expositions.
To provoke critical thinking
As for the potential lynch-mob victim, Cruz is somewhat bewildered and a little sad over the violent reactions. A self-effacing man who avoids direct questions about how he interprets his own art, Cruz said he never expected the negative reactions coming from various quarters?
(Photo by Ina Alleco Silverio / bulatlat.com)
“I never go out of my way to offend; but I do like to provoke debates and critical thinking. Art is a way of expressing one’s views about the world, culture and history, and this is what I do in my work. The audience is free to make their own conclusions and interpretations about the images I create, but I must confess I didn’t expect for anyone to react so violently against ‘Poleteismo.’ The worse that I would’ve expected is for no one to come to the CCP and see my work or those of the my colleagues in this exhibition,” he said.
There are those who might say that Cruz is being a bit too naive when he said how surprised he was by the outrage generated by his work. He put up pictures of Jesus Christ and Mother Mary alongside condoms; he got plastic piggy banks and put them inside a glass display case, the sort that’s commonly found in churches; he hung crucifixes and rosaries next to wooden phalluses. Like reporter Logan said, “the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic Country,” so the reaction of some quarters could not have been such a shock.
“I wanted to provoke people into thinking. I titled my work ‘Poleteismo’ which loosely translates into ‘many beliefs’ or ‘many deities.’ Throughout history, humanity has grown to create new gods and these are not always religious figures but concepts and objects. Some have taken to worshipping money; some see politicians as godsend. People create idols and these idols whether or not they’re deserving of idolatry or worship affect our lives and how we function and see the world,” he said.
“Poleteismo” is actually three walls entirely covered with various images and papers — calendars, bus tickets, old school certificates, photographs, political posters, postcards, advertisements and other printed materials. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are not the only images featured, but Robert Jaworski endorsing Dr. J. rubbing alcohol; Alma Concepcion smiling over Champion cigarettes; two Thai actors selling Coca-cola, and US President Barack Obama.
[(Photo by Ina Alleco Silverio / bulatlat.com)]
In the meantime, on one free-standing wall hangs a life-size crucifix festooned with scapulars and rosaries, as well as a red phallus. Cruz shrugs off the outrage over the phalluses.
“It’s symbolic for patriarchy, a symbol of power. There are those who worship power, who put their faith in men who wield power even if the power is used against women, or against the whole of society. The fight for sexual and gender equality continues, doesn’t it? But the balance continues to be tipped in favor of the phallus. Is this good or bad? You decide,” he said.
(For some, the phalluses could very well represent the leadership of the Catholic Church in the Philippines – a group of grown men deciding on how women in the country do not have the right to control their own reproduction process, much less their sexuality. Currently the Catholic Church is hard at work campaigning against proposals for a reproductive health law. It has also come to a head against calls of the Lesbian, Gay ,Bisexual and Transsexual or LGBT community to allow same-sex marriages in the country — writer)
PHOTO - MIDEO CRUZ: The former student of the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) is not new to the art scene at all and is in fact well known not only in local art circles, but internationally as well, having opened exhibits in Switzerland, Italy and the United States. He was also recipient of the Ateneo Art Awards in 2007 and awarded the CCP 13 artists awards in 2003.
The man is widely travelled, and has taken time to read up on the cultural history of religious iconography and the origins of religious symbolism.
“Everything around us can be considered as symbols, some are actually only symbols more than anything else. How we understand these symbols, how we use them is what gives them power and meaning,” he said.
Among activist circles, in the meantime, Cruz is known as a performance artist acting out pieces dealing with political issues like the interference of the United States on global affairs; human rights; and militarization.
He is also a founding member of the artist group Ugat-Lahi. Ugat-Lahi is credited for the effigies presented and then burned during rallies led by the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN).
Far from accusations that Cruz is only trying to generate controversy to be noticed, Cruz sheepishly admits that “Poleteismo” is actually the product of house cleaning. Apparently, the man is a pack-rat and for the last two decades he has been collecting various scraps of paper and whatnot with the general intention of some day putting them to use.
“We were cleaning the house and we discovered all this,” he said, pointing to the walls with their thousands of colorful, conflicting images like those from a series of MTV videos from various genres looped together. He and partner, artist and singer Raquel de Loyala usually spend two to three days pasting and putting together the massive collage that has sent religious groups seething. Close Your Eyes and Think
Cruz frequently tries to shy away from questions that seek his own opinion on his work, but when pressed, he answers even if reluctantly.
“This is how I see the Filipino way of life — colorful, varied, full of conflicting beliefs and values. Can’t you just see these same images pasted on the walls of houses in the urban poor communities? And Filipino society, its racked with economic and political turmoil, and then there’s religion which frequently involves itself in the entire conglomeration of issues and developments,” he said. Sure enough, if one does as Cruz advises — close your eyes after seeing the images, breathe and think– the walls begin to speak about the Filipino condition.
There’s the carton poster on the alphabet with “A” standing for “Apple” when apples are not grown in the Philippines and “J” is for Jeep and not for “jeepney.”
There’s the calendar where former First Lady Imelda Marcos smiles beatifically at her beholder.
Then there are the liquor bottles that used to contain expensive alcohol that could very well symbolize the corruption of the country because of the profligacy of its so-called leaders in government.
“I don’t like telling people what I mean when I paint something or what I want to say when I include an image in an installation. I would much rather that people talk about the work and think about they’ve seen,” Cruz said.
If only people would first think instead of being judgmental. In defense of religion and religious beliefs, some quarters have already taken to maliciously attributing Cruz’ controversial work to a “twisted sexuality.”
Freedom of Expression
The artist community has thrown its support behind Cruz and the CPP, saying that ‘Poleteismo’ protected by the provision of freedom of expression of the 1987 Constitution.
The Artists and cultural workers from the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) in a statement said that they support the CCP, specially its Visual Arts unit headed by Karen Flores, and the organizers of KULO for upholding freedom of expression.
[(Photo by Ina Alleco Silverio / bulatlat.com)
Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature and current Chairperson of CAP said that Article 3 section 4 of the country’s constitution states that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
“The bishops and the lay leaders who are pressuring the CCP to close the show are within their right to speak against KULO, and they are free to admonish the Catholic faithful regarding what they find objectionable in Mideo’s artwork. We believe, however, that this demand to suppress the show smacks of the religious fascism of the friars of Rizal’s time and certainly unacceptable in the 21st century,” he said.
Lumbera went on to say that CAP welcomes the CCP’s call for a dialogue on the exhibit, believing that criticism of artists’ work is part of the artistic process and contributes to the growth of the artist.
” We caution critics, however, not to resort to intimidation and defamation that threaten the artist’s freedom of expression,” said CAP Secretary-General Prof. Neil Doloricon of the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts.
“We call on artists and cultural workers from the different fields of art and humanities to stand steadfast against the curtailment of the Constitutional guarantee of free artistic expression that founding CAP Chairperson Lino Brocka persuaded the Convention to insert in the 1987 Constitution. When he advocated support for works “that will hurt…that will not make you rest…For the times are really bad, and given times like this, it is a crime to rest.”
CCP should have stood firm against censorship – National Artist Published on August 11, 2011 By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
[PHOTO at left is the Profile photo of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines wall on Facebook]
MANILA — The chairman of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) and National Artist for Literature Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera expressed strong disappointment over the decision of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and its Board of Directors to close the exhibit Kulo long before its originally scheduled end on August 21.
In a forum in the College of Mass Communication in the University of the Philippines Diliman campus, Lumbera said it was disappointing and frustrating how the CCP bowed down to pressure from a few quarters and in the process failed in its duty to uphold the rights of artists and the freedom of expression.
“The CCP should have stood its ground and resisted the demands of those who did not understand the implications of their actions when they raged against an art piece. It did more than just shut the doors of a gallery exhibiting Kulo, it surrendered the rights of artists and allowed censorship in,” he said.
A dangerous precedent
[Photo - Dr. Bienvenido Lumbrera, Chairman of CAP and National Artists for Literature: SCHOLAR. Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera’s act of writing the nation began when, in response to a challenge to write his doctoral dissertation on Philippine vernacular literature, he confronted the deep cultural malaise afflicting his generation. His dissertation, Tagalog Poetry, 1570-1898: Tradition and Influences in its Development marked his extraordinary return to the roots of his native literary traditions. Understanding and reconstituting the aesthetics of Tagalog poetry, he cleared the path for more serious studies in Philippine literature and historiography. POET. Lumbera’s study of Tagalog poetic traditions expanded the scope of his own poetry. It freed him from writing only in English. He helped change the terrain of contemporary Tagalog poetry. In their groundbreaking poetic experimentation, they brought to poetry the concreteness of objects, sounds, and experiences using ordinary everyday language in a defamiliarized way, thus radicalizing the notion of Tagalog poetic diction. DRAMATIST. Here is the dramatist whose plays are given to the re-education of his people. Lumbera has not only provided the poetry and venue for other Filipino artists to display the brilliance of their craft. He has also given his audiences new eyes with which to see varied dimensions of the Filipino soul. He has pioneered in fusing fine arts with popular culture.
The National Artist said the CCP’s action was also a cause for alarm because it sets a dangerous precedent.
“It sends a message to artists, that they should be more careful when creating their art for fear of repercussions. This is an attack against creativity and the freedom of expression; artists are being told to toe a certain line and repress what they truly think and feel about society and how they experience the world,” he said.
Lumbera also questioned how the CCP seemed to have caved in after former First Lady and wife of ousted ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos gave her views on Mideo Cruz’ controversial installation “Poleteismo.”
Commenting on the issue of the closure of the controversial Kulo exhibit including Mideo Cruz’s “Poletesismo,” National Artist for Literature Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera says the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and its Board of Directors should not have bowed down to pressure from a few quarters.
(Photo by Ina Alleco R. Silverio / bulatlat.com -)
“Who is Imelda Marcos anyway? She was the wife of a former president. What right has she, what authority does she have to lay down what constitutes art and what doesn’t, what’s obscene and what’s not? It’s most unfortunate that the CCP did not take the opportunity to clarify concepts surrounding art, how to appreciate it and other related ideas to foster healthy and productive discussions on matters such as this,” he said.
The CAP and the loose artist formation Palayain and Sining (Set Art Free) said they will hold a symbolic action on August 21 as the CPP officially ends the exhibition run of Kulo.
Right to agree to disagree
[Photo - on the issue of the closure of the controversial Kulo exhibit including Mideo Cruz’s “Poletesismo,” National Artist for Literature Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera (photo) says the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) and its Board of Directors should not have bowed down to pressure from a few quarters. (Photo by Ina Alleco R. Silverio / bulatlat.com)]
Karen Ocampo Flores, former head of the CCP Visual Arts and Museo Division of the CCP, tendered her resignation yesterday over the flop surrounding the exhibit. She said she did her best to try and clarify how everything connected to the exhibit went through the CCP’s processes, but in the end, the political pressure mounted went below the belt.
“First off, Imelda Marcos should not have been allowed media mileage over this issue. Second, religion has never been the focus of whatever fights that have unfortunately erupted over this. This is all about politics and the right of artists and everyone else to express creatively their beliefs. I resigned with my convictions intact; I simply exercised my right to agree to disagree,” she said.
Flores called on Filipino artists to support the CCP and bring issues of censorship and curtailment of the freedom of expression constantly to its attention and in the process have the public collectively deal with them.
Directly addressing those who used religion to attack the exhibition, Flores said, “Religion should be there to nourish and sustain us, but it shouldn’t be used to foster hate and conflict and widen the gap of differences,” referring to those who attacked Cruz over the media and the internet saying that he “violated their religious beliefs.”
A campaign for education
[PHOTO - August 11, Thursday, 2011. Prof. Cecilia Sta. Maria-dela Paz' Statement at the Palayain ang Sining Freedom of Expression Press Conference talks about the need for arts/visual arts literacy to help people understand the works of artists]
The Chairwoman of the UP Art Studies department Prof. Cecilia Sta. Maria de la Paz shook her head over how the CCP chose instead to close the Kulo exhibit than engage in a campaign of education. She said the whole controversy would not have gotten out of hand and could have turned into something positive had the CCP taken a more proactive stance.
“The CCP gave in to the deep-seated fears and lack of knowledge of the public. On the other hand, the media could also have helped put Mideo’s art in context and encourage discussions and debate instead of directly or not fomenting arguments and fights. What is the nature of the offense in this case concerning a piece of art? What did the artist mean by constructing his piece in such a way that many deemed offensive? There’s a need for visual literacy here, and we could have used this opportunity to impart this,” she said.
De la Paz said that Filipinos should realize that the age when art is considered only in terms of its entertainment and decorative value is long over.
“What happened affects our rights as a whole. Threats against artists are threats against the rest of us. We want discourse, not hysteria. You just don’t shut doors just because you feel offended — let’s talk about it,” she said.
Artists appeal to resist attempts at censorship
Writer and art historian Prof. Nick Tiongson of the UP College of Mass Communication, in the meantime, said the Philippines already has a history of censorship. He cited various instances wherein works of art in the fields of film and dance have been censored by the government since the 1930s. He said that in the 1950s, bishops called for a ban against ballet because of its supposed “lewdness.”
“All these years we have been battling against censorship. Ideally , the media and the arts have a common goal: to tell the truth about society with media doing this through exposition, and the arts through creative expression. If we allow censorship or allow the distortion of art and how it is appreciated, we allow the status quo to continue and it is a state of things that goes against the interest of the Filipino people,” he said.
“Do we want Philippine art to remain a realm of escapism instead of an active institution that speaks about the ills of society and provokes ideas and positive action for change.
“Art is always subversive in this sense. Artists want the audience to dream of a better world or change a bad of state of things,” he said. Tiongson appealed to the media to work with artists in fighting against any and all attempts at censorship.
“What’s most alarming about what happened to Kulo is how the Church did not have to take action to impose censorship, but the government itself did it by putting on pressure on the CCP,” he said.
“It’s ironic how those who criticized ‘Poleteismo’ and violently attacked it and the artist declare themselves as followers of Christ. It’s ironic that this happened in the only Catholic country in Asia, but also one of the most corrupt,” he said.
[President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday admitted that he, as a Christian, was also offended by the “blasphemous” art exhibit displayed at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), adding he supported its closure. The President said he talked to several board members of the CCP and personally told them how he felt about the exhibit. --Newsreport from SunStar 'Aquino backs closure of Kulo, Manila, Tuesday August 9]
Performer Cabring Cabrera for his part said President Benigno Aquino III exposed himself when he supported the calls against ‘Poleteismo.’ He said Aquino essentially supported censorship when he agreed with moves to close down the exhibition it was part of.
“Not only has ‘straight path’ been revealed to be full of potholes, it’s also very narrow,” he said. “How can we expect the public to be more discerning about art and the political and social messages it can impart if society’s leaders themselves are not? We must fight against censorship because we must not allow anyone to curtail our rights to say what we think and what we believe,” he said.
Painter Egai Talusan Fernandez for his part said those who were offended by Cruz’ art missed seeing the whole message it wanted to impart. He also said matters of belief and religion were not the only concerns of the art piece and instead it sought to provoke critical thought on other issues affecting society.
“This is not an attack against Christians or Christianity; this is one artist expressing ideas about the world and the realm of experience. It’s funny how back in the times of Jesus Christ they used to throw Christians to the lions and the Christians accepted it as martyrdom. Now there are Christians who have themselves turned into lions,” he said.
Renowned dancer Myra Beltran in the meantime called on all artists and those who believe in the creative process and how it can help transform society to resist censorship and defend the freedom of expression.
“I would always want to enjoy the freedom to speak about the whole of human experience even if it’s ugly,” she said, quoting a poet.
Exhibit of harassment
In a related development, Sining Bugkos, an alliance of cultural groups said the plans of several lay Catholic groups and Christian denominations to file charges before the Office of the Ombudsman over the Kulo exhbit was “an exhibit of harassment.”
Earlier, Pro-Life led by a certain Jo Imbong said it will file charges against 11 CCP officials and Mideo Cruz for allegedly violating Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code.Art. 201 on immoral doctrines, obscene publications and exhibitions and indecent shows.
Sining Bugkos chairman Max Santiago said the purported charges are tantamount to harassment. “This reminds us of the period of the Inquisition, a time when religious authorities ruled over logic and reason,” he said.
Santiago urged the CCP to re-open the Kulo exhibit and allow the public to decide intelligently on the ideas behind the art pieces.
Artists decry censorship, repression as CCP yields to pressure Published on August 10, 2011 32 11ShareThis By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO Bulatlat.com
[Photos on this page courtesy of “Palayain ang Sining” on Freedom of Expression, Censorship and the case of “kulo” posted at the BlogWatch online]
Excerpts from the BlogWatch - Blog Watch is a citizen journalism site composed of independent-minded bloggers and social media users that leverage new technology tools to advocate social change and serve as citizens’ watchdog for transparency and good governance.]
The whole issue surrounding the Kulo Exhibit at the CCP and particularly that of Mideo Cruz’s Poleteismo , has gotten out of hand, to say the least. But focusing on our attention and ire on one person has made us overlook the larger underlying issue, which affects not only Mideo Cruz but all of us as creators of art and as members of the viewing public: that of censorship and repression.
The bishops and religious lay leaders pushing for the closure of the exhibit are demanding not only that we persecute one person’s creative expression, but that we hinder any other creative expressions whose concept and presented ideologies they do not agree with. To allow the exhibit’s closure based on such would set a precedent for all other exhibitions as follow.
Threats of filing legal charges have been made against the CCP and has cited Article 201 of the revised penal code. Yet this law in contrary to Article 3 section 4 of the Philippine constitution, stating that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, expression , or of the press or the right of the people peacably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”
Palayain ang sining is direct in what it stands for : The fight for freedom in our creative expression; the fight against censorship and repression.
We call on all artists from all fields -visual arts, cinema, theater, dance, music, — to unite against this attempt to censor and control what are shown to the public.
We call on members of the press to likewise uphold our basic constitutional rights to freedom of speech, of expression and of the press.
We call on the CCP to re-open the exhibition in the spirit of free flow of ideas and cultural expressions. In the spirit of the long tradition of progressive artists who have fought for freedom of expression and against censorship.
Freedoms that we enjoy today because of a long history of struggle.
Palayain ang Sining does not merely support Mideo Cruz. We support the fight against censorshop and against attacks on our basic right to freedom of expression.
MANILA — A new formation of Filipino artists and civil rights defenders calling themselves Palayain ang Sining (Set Art Free) have taken up cudgels in defense of beleaguered artist Mideo Cruz.
In a manifesto, the group said the whole controversy surrounding the Kulô exhibit at the CCP — particularly the furor over Cruz’s Poleteismo, has “gotten out of hand.” It said there were other, more important issues that have risen as a result of the controversy that should be addressed.
“Focusing our attention and ire on one person has made us overlook the larger underlying issue, which affects not only Mideo Cruz but all of us as creators of art and as members of the viewing public: that of censorship and repression,” it said.
The formation said the bishops and religious lay leaders who are pushing for the closure of the exhibit are also persecuting one person’s creative expression. It also said these individuals were hindering other creative expressions whose concept present ideologies they do not agree with.
“To allow the exhibit’s closure based on such would set the precedent for all other exhibitions that would follow. Palayain ang Sining is direct in what it stands for: the fight for freedom in our creative expression; the fight against censorship and repression,” it said.
The artist formation called on artists from all fields — visual arts, cinema, theater, dance and music to unite against what it said was an attempt to censor and control what are shown to the public. It also appealed to members of the media to be vigilant in upholding the constitutional right to freedom of speech, expression, and of the press.
“Palayain ang Sining does not merely support Mideo Cruz. We support the fight against censorship, and against attacks on our basic right to freedom of expression,” it said.
CCP closes Kulo exhibit
The Cultural Center of the Philippines announced Tuesday, August 9 that it was closing down the CCP’s main gallery where the Kulo exhibit was on display. This, the CCP went on to explain, was because of the numerous emails, text messages and other letters sent to various officers of the CCP, and to the artists themselves, with an increasing number of threats to persons and property.
“This decision was made amidst controversy and deliberation by the Board as to what steps are necessary to avoid future similar incidents,” it said. The statement was signed by Raul Sunico and Emily Abrera, CCP’s president and chairwoman respectively.
In the meantime, Senator Jinggoy Estrada delivered a privileged speech calling for the resignation of the officials of the CCP. He condemned the exhibit and said that those behind it should be sanctioned. He labelled the exhibition “an outrageous abuse of artistry and freedom of expression.”
“These ugly, insulting, blasphemous images achieve nothing, enrich no one, and debase instead of uplift,” he said.
According to reports, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile also expressed support to calls for the resignation of the CCP’s board of directors.
Earlier this week, former First Lady and wife of ousted ex-dictator Ferdinand Marcos visited the exhibit and said that she was shocked by it. She called the exhibit “shameful.”
“We built that to be the sanctuary of the Filipino soul and a monument to the Filipino spirit. “
Marcos said the exhibit was not only ugly, it was “not true and not at all beautiful.”
A sad day for artists
Reacting to announcements of the exhibit’s closure, various artists expressed sentiments ranging from sadness to outrage.
Singer and University of the Philippines Diliman professor Roselle Pineda said it was “a sad day for artists and guardians of freedom of artistic expression… but it has always been the people that asserted and won this right whenever it is threatened and curtailed… all rights, including the right to express is something we assert and claim, it is not, unfortunately, given by institutions, and so, as artists and cultural workers, we must be vigilant in guarding our rights. we must be united and mobilize to stand and uphold freedom of expression! Artists unite!
Dean of the UP College of Mass Communications and writer Rolando Tolentino Tweeted his sentiments in Filipino.
“Imelda is a hypocrite and her tastes when it comes to truth/goodness/beauty. This was a dictatorship, or has she forgotten?”
“If you don’t want to see or hear things against your beliefs, do not go to where the debates are unless you want to be a victim even if you orchestrated your own victimization.”
“Censorship is a blow against all artists. The state has the capability to repress those it believes to be offensive to its own interests.”
Artist and former dean of the UP College of Fine Arts Leonilo Doloricon in the meantime said, “Those holier than thou crusaders against Mideo Cruz’ should stay in the church everyday not in museums and galleries.”
PinoyWeekly editor Kenneth Guda in the meantime said journalists should be up in arms over this attack on free expression.
“To paraphrase that Niemoller quote: ‘First they came for the artists but we did not speak because we were not artists. Then they came for the journalists and nobody was left to speak for us,’” he said.
Award-winning writer and painter Jun Cruz Reyes also expressed commiseration with Cruz.
“Poor Mideo M. Cruz, misunderstood all over again. Let me borrow a quote for you: “Brilliant ideas are always getting violent opposition from mediocre minds” — Albert Einstein. Brace yourself Mideo. In the end, your art will see you through. I salute you.” Yet another group, Artists ARREST (Artists’ Response to the Call for Social Change and Transformation) slammed President Benigno Aquino III for supporting the CCP’s decision to close down the exhibit, saying that Aquino’s move “smacked of hypocrisy.”
“Aquino establishes his position by saying he sees no element of service in art that ‘insults the beliefs of most of the people.’ One is then tempted to ask Aquino what service did buying a Porsche do for Filipinos.Many people felt offended by what he did, but no one called for censorship against what amounted to his fetishism for expensive, luxury cars. No government institution was able to prevent him from driving his toy until he decided that it is not practical to keep.”
The group also pointed out that it was “deeply alarming to hear the most powerful man in the country make a statement not only defining according to his own terms what it is good or bad to say, but also sanctions the silencing of an idea which to other peoples’ mind has no value.”
Aquino, the group said, made his claim without having actually seen the artwork in question.
Artist Arrest said the CCP board should rethink its position. “Closing the exhibit already constitutes censorship. We also appeal to artists and citizens to see the higher social wager at stake in this situation: our freedom of expression. ”
Objectivity in the face of controversy
The issue has sparked countless debates over social networking sites, prompting opinions on art, religion and freedom of expression.
An activist poet, Stum Casia, said however that the public should not focus on the narrow issues of religious beliefs or the lack thereof when it comes to the controversy.
” To be able to lay down an objective opinion, it would be better to look at the issue from all sides and not be convinced merely by various television reports, pictures and a few descriptions. It’s important that the matter be seen in its entirety, including the subtle and unspoken implications and messages of the issue,” he said.
Casia is an official of the poet collective Kilometer 64 and posted the note in his Facebook account.
Owing to the call that the exhibition be closed down, however, Casia regrets that he will no longer have the opportunity to see Cruz’ work for himself.
“But this I can say — Cruz has courage. He has dared to tackle the issue of idolatry which many others shy from discussing. I am a Christian and an officer in my church. I read the bible. I pray whether it concerns a simple cold or the cancer that affects the country. I beg the forgiveness of Catholics, but I believe that the graven images and statues are false gods. And it’s said in the bible that to worship false idols is to worship the god who has been created by men.”
“My Jesus Christ in not made of wood or stone. He does not have long hair nor does he bear a mustache and a beard. Not a poster that can be framed. Not a gold pendant. Cannot be a tattooed image. He is the Living Christ. I will use the life He has leant me wisely. ”
According to reports, the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) said it will hold a discussion on issues of censorship, freedom and expression and the responsibility of artists this coming Thursday in the the College of Mass Communication in UP Diliman.(http://bulatlat.com)
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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