Sunday, August 14, 2011

Kulo Blasphemous Art Exhibit at CCP

Lifted from various internet sources:

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) closed down on Tuesday the main gallery where the controversial “Kulo” art exhibit is on display. In a statement, the CCP said threats to persons and property influenced the management’s decision to close down the gallery.

One of the artworks displayed in the gallery — artist Mideo Cruz’s piece, a mixed-media collage called “Poleteismo” — was criticized as “blasphemous” and then vandalized last week. According to local news reports, the controversial art exhibit includes images and statues such as:

1. A wooden replica 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.

Obviously, the controversial art exhibit was done by an artist who is perhaps a proponent of the equally controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill.

Despite its closure for 5 days now, there are still so many varied reactions on this local exhibit. I was baptized as a Roman Catholic, though I'm not the type who go to church every Sunday. But after joining religious organizations since high school and until now, I do understand the sentiments or strong reactions of those who strongly oppose the controversial art exhibit.

Art is defined as the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance. Under Article III of the Bill of Rights in our 1987 Constitution, Mideo Cruz and like everyone else is free to express his/her ideas and opinions, the same way that the religious groups can express their disagreement to the art exhibit. Free speech or freedom of expression is a feature of democracy.

However, I find the premature closure of the exhibit as a manifestation of biased governance and playing politics. Why politics? The President succumbed to the pressures of the Catholic groups, perhaps to gain approval after he rejected their requests to kill the RH bill. Although 85% of Filipinos are Christians, the government should not just favor certain religious organizations, and ignore the 15% minority who has other religious beliefs. 

Prior to this, our government has banned the showing of blasphemous films like The Last Temptation of Christ in 1990, but they did not filed any diplomatic protest when the Muslim prophet Mohammed was comically featured in a European newspaper. The government has not banned the defacement or adulteration of Siva, Vishnu, Bulol, or other religious deities of Hinduism or our indigenous tribes. So where is consistency and fair treatment with that?

The Human Rights Council of the United Nations has released General Comment No. 34, which affirms the superiority of the right to free speech over the so-called right against blasphemy. General Comment No. 34 was put out by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which the Philippines is a member. As a signatory and ratifier, the Philippines is legally bound by international law to follow GC34. In the comment, it says that, “Prohibitions of displays of lack of respect for a religion or other belief system, including blasphemy laws, are incompatible with the Covenant….”

We all know that most Philippine towns has a church in front or beside the municipal seat of government, a stark reminder of the Spanish governance during our colonization for 300 years. But at these modern times, the Padre Damasos of today are the current religious groups, showing that the state is not yet fully separated from the church, contrary to the mandate of our constitution. Should we revise our nation's official name into Catholic Republic of the Philippines?

The Church and religious groups have shown their double standards on this controversial art exhibit. When there are nude or sexually-provocative art exhibits or demonstrations, they don't go on massive demonstrations or campaigns to stop such displays. Like the clergy, I'm proud of the local century-old churches which are timeless works of art. But are they equally proud that almost all of these great structures are products of "polo y servicios" or forced labor by Spanish Catholic priests? As a consolation, at least there is no coercion or intimidation done to Mideo Cruz when he did his controversial art pieces.

Creation and interpretation of art objects is subjective and evolves through time. Van Gogh's early works were ridiculed before but are now collectors' items. The Church takes pride in Da Vinci's Last Supper, or the Sistine Chapel's paintings by Michaelangelo and other Renaissance artists. But what if those artists are still alive today and decides to do some sex & drugs themed modifications on their religious masterpieces? Will the Church ban art forms altogether?

The filing of court case against the CCP officials and other personalities behind the Kulo art exhibit is an over reaction and leaves a bad taste. Aren't they satisfied that the art exhibit was terminated abruptly? If I remember it right from my history class, Christianity as a minority group during the ancient times were being persecuted, and they cannot freely preach their beliefs. Now that the tables have turned with their considerable influence on the government, they are playing tormentors and seem to have forgotten their roots.

This semi-desperate reaction of the Church and their religious groups somehow reflects their insecurity. If their religious doctrines have strong foundation among their followers, why should they be threatened by these blasphemous art forms? Are they afraid that their followers will realize that "faith without reason" is not enough? If Filipinos will become open-minded and challenge the origin of Catholic faith, I guess the Church will loose a substantial portion of their followers.

On my personal taste and spiritual level, I don't like the exhibited art by Mideo Cruz. I still have a choice to not see the exhibit, curse it, and discourage everyone from seeing it. However, I believe that we need to be objective and tolerant of other people's political and religious beliefs or aspirations. That is a basic right and responsibility guaranteed by the State to its citizens in a democracy, since the term was invented by the Greek philosophers. Unfortunately, some people either don't comprehend or does not want to accept that. It just proves the immaturity of our socio-political system.

Pictures were taken from various internet news sites, that I cannot credit anymore the owner of the original raw images.

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