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» » » » » » On Kulô’s Poleteismo at CCP: Boil, Baby, Boil!


JR Lopez Gonzales 5:01 PM 0


The Kulô (Boil) exhibit at CCP which was opened on the first week of this month had promoted a heated rift between those tilted towards freedom of expression and “religious sensibilities”.

While the organizers described the Kulô exhibit as “discourses of the pen and the sword, education and revolution that continue to implicate Filipino artists and thinkers”, it was formed in accordance with UST’s quadricentennial and the 150th birthday of its most famous dropout, national hero Jose Rizal. Poleteismo, Mideo Cruz’s art piece now in hot water, is only one art work among the exhibit’s 32 others by artist alumni of the University of Santo Tomas.

Poleteismo (Polytheism) is a recycled piece first exhibited at the UP’s Vargas Museum in 2002 and the Ateneo’s Loyola House of Studies without incident in 2004 but sure caused a controversy this year which included vandalisms inside the respected gallereis of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.

Mideo Cruz’s stated goal was to speak of “idolatry and neo-deities" (thus the exhibit name, “Poleteismo”) shaping modern Filipino consciousness. “We need to realize that [Poleteismo] is the mirror of our society and of ourselves...The reality of our society is the real blasphemy of our own image; the blasphemy of our sacred self."

Does art and religion mix.

Those things in the collage that irked the church people were a seated Christ the King wearing a red clown’s nose and Mickey Mouse ears, a cross with red male genitalia, and condoms juxtaposed with religious objects. Surrounding these was a welter of commercials, travel stickers, political pamphlets, pictures of Fernando Poe, Jr., Gilbert Teodoro, and Barack Obama in an election season, penis ashtrays juxtaposed with pictures of the Holy Family, rosaries, crucifixes, even Christmas lights. This visual summary of modern Filipino culture seemed to give its viewer pause with thoughts of pedophile priests.


One of those really pissed of was Manolo Dayrit of Ang Kapatiran, went on to take things to court making the CCP “liable for corrupting values" – Article 20 of the Revised Penal Code penalizing exhibits scandalous to religion; Article 21 speaking of compensation; Article 26 speaking of a course of action to make up for insulting religious belief. The laypeople’s legal adviser, Attorney Imbong said that the basis of their case would be Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code, which has outlawed exhibits that “offend any race or religion.” The penalty for the offense includes prision mayor or six to 12 years’ imprisonment, as well as a fine ranging from P6,000 to P12,000.

It is has always been indeed a pandemonium when art and religion meet (not to forget the Senators which simply “rode on” to this issue instead of doing things of national importance). A question worth asking is this: “Where does art start; and obscenity end”?

Those religious objects doesn’t even ring a bell for me as this can’t even be “images of God”. Those were just but artist interpretations (because we don’t have a concrete picture of how Jesus or God looks like). Let’s look at the Bible which these fanatics fail to read:

"Exodus 20:4 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below."

If one is open in the practice of one’s religion, I believe it is only fair if people of different beliefs would also try to express themselves. Although it is only fair to show mutual deference to all icons, images, rituals and ideas venerated by all existing faiths within a nation, there is such a thing as choice which makes all the difference because we live in a democracy. Come to think of it, if one does not want to see the gallery, one has the choice not to go there (just like me opting not to watch Filipino teleseryes).
I don't see the "True, Good, and Beautiful" in the after effects of Martial Law.

Art is simply not just about beauty as what Imelda believes on only the “true, good, and the beautiful”. Anything can be counted as art, as long as its creator expresses his or her thought. (Check out my post on "What's the Use of Art?" here).

Even if it looked like a hodgepodge of “unoriginal” things is considered an art. Has anyone heard of Andy Warhol? While this may seem a minor idea, it sheds doubt on the author’s ability to determine artistic merit. Warhol showed that pastiche and the unique combination of existing images may constitute original art.

This is the real problem: We, Filipinos fail to appreciate and understand the true meaning of “art” - as aesthetics, as a reflection of social consciousness, as a vehicle of one’s ideas. Agreement and conformity are not the only measures of artistic culture.

Come on, one exhibit cannot bring down the Catholic Church. But that does not give license of anybody or any institution to mangle ideas that do not conform to the norm or become a standard because of the power in numbers of followers. These freethinkers do even ask for special privileges or  SUVs, they simply want equality.

Mideo Cruz - The man whose collage was under fire... and boiling water.
The exhibit’s closure was a shameful defeat for the right of free expression. There were thirty-one other visual artists in that exhibit who were also shut off from the public because of institutional pressures on the works of one of the participants. What happened to the autonomy of CCP from censorship? Or is that autonomy only applicable whenever it is expedient to apply?

I agree with National Artist F. Sionil Jose in defending art that “there was nothing "obscene" in it [Poleteismo] compared to the obscenities of corrupt officials in government.

"The obscenities in this country are the powerful Filipinos who do not do their duties, the corrupt officials, who are not responsible. These are the obscenities in our nation. There are only bad artists and bad writers”.
They are the ones that should be lambasted and ones to be crucified on the cruz (pun intended). As far as I know, religious fanaticism is dangerous in that they threaten not only the individual rights guaranteed by our constitution but also the very roots of democracy. This “blasphemy” (as what the laypeople mean) serves nothing but the weapon of the weak. Is it not then reasonable for a person to use his artistic right to protest against the patriarchy of the institutional Catholic Church?

I apologize that I have to blur these obscene faces.

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