Wednesday ∗ 03 Aug 2011

the industry of offense, art as sacrificial lamb

let me skip the fact that this artwork is old, i.e., this is the nth version of it that’s been exhibited. let me not do a review of the whole exhibit Kulo here, as i hope to still be able to do that with more time in my hands.

in fact, this i feel is more urgent. elsewhere i praise pinky webb. since two days ago, i have completely changed my mind about her.

by this fact: upon a complaint, and many others who agreed on her show exklusibong, explosibong, expose‘s FB page, she does two stories on mideo cruz‘s art installation “Poleteismo” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines gallery. the follow up story is what i get to see, where pinky reveals herself as the worse kind of media personality there is, doing a story on a creative work and in the process proving that she actually thinks little — if at all — of art and creativity.

i don’t care how many people complain about an artwork, and i get the capitalist intent of the media believing that sensationalism is a service to the public. but it should be the media’s responsibility to see an artwork and not miss the fact that it is an artwork. i’m the last person who will insist that we cannot be offended by art — even i have limitations. but at the very least a piece of art should be seen in its totality, not at all what pinky did here.

Poleteismo by Mideo Cruz

Poleteismo by Mideo Cruz

instead her camera focused on the christ’s face attached to which was a wooden penis; the drawing that likened him to micky mouse; the condoms hanging/attached to certain religious images. when faced with mideo, her question of him was to the effect: anong pumasok sa isip mo at nagawa mo ‘to?

obviously pinky was coming from a place of agreement with those who have complained about “Poleteismo;” obviously this was pinky revealing herself as the conservative that she is, as a media personality who is limited by her notion(s) of art, or lack of it; obviously pinky is a perfect example of objectivity proving itself only a stance that panders to the Pinoy church, noisy and controversial and powerful as it is.

because at the very least, pinky should’ve featured that work as a whole, that is a whole goddamn room, and not zero in on its parts as if that was the whole work. when i saw “Poleteismo” i did not quickly or easily associate it with religiosity, as i did with icons and institutions, belief systems and ideologies: imelda and ferdie, mickey mouse, robert jaworski, showbiz personalities, the university of the philippines, activism, slogans, chants, sex, and yes, Catholicism. the latter is not only one of many things here, it is crucial to see it as such because it’s the only way to experience the space (again, this was practically a whole room) and let its bombardment of images do what it must: startle you, disgust you, at the very least force you to see that this was not just about religiosity as it was about idolatry.

Poleteismo 2011

Poleteismo 2011

Poleteismo 2011

Poleteismo 2011

after which we might argue about what exactly this work questions, what it puts side by side with catholicism, what it says about the state of the nation since 2007 when a version of it was first installed. then let’s talk about whether we should take offense at all, given our catholicism, or whether or not this is the kind of catholicism that’s embroiled in all the other things we hold dear sinful and evil as they might be considered.

pinky herself performed the travesty and tragedy that this work critiques, and she has no idea. i’d be sad about it, were i not dismayed that she didn’t know better.

to have even walked through that space and spoken to the artist, all captured on the XXX camera, and then to have asked those questions, is a measure of pinky and no one else. my undergraduate students would’ve asked infinitely better questions of mideo and of CCP Visual Arts director karen ocampo-flores, who has said as much about the manner in which “Poleteismo” has been treated in parts versus in its entirety.

Poleteismo 2011

Poleteismo 2011

of course the latter is expected of the Pinoy Church, petty as they are, lost as they are in the changing — almost static — contemporary times. but to have the media, and popular media at that! failing to be critical precisely of the premises of this complaint against “Poleteismo,” failing to see the work and thinking ah, that complaint could be wrong, is just unforgivable. you know what else is a measure of bad journalism here? in the course of that segment, i did not hear pinky mention the title of the mideo’s work (though i might have missed it as i was getting more and more incensed by the minute). she also kept calling the work an “exhibit” — which it isn’t. she wouldn’t have had the right to talk about the exhibit as a whole either, i.e. Kulo itself, because she didn’t even mention the rest of those works. which is just irresponsible too, to have failed not just in seeing the entirety of “Poleteismo,” but also in placing it in the context of the bigger exhibit.

what pinky did was the height of sensationalist reportage, with the arts as sacrificial lamb, bringing on discussions on morality and money, the bane of the culture industry in this country. that segment on “Poleteismo” ends with pinky saying something to the effect that creative freedom must not impinge upon religious beliefs. oh but what to do with someone who did not even get into the creativity of something? what of someone who will fight for freedom of expression in the media, but will absolutely fail to get art productions? good lord (yes using his name in vain, so sue me).

of course i can hear the bottom line here: for pinky it’s that someone actually complained about that artwork and was offended, well let me throw this into the picture:

i am offended by this project of Sen. TG Guingona because it is an unnecessary use of taxpayers money, since the people he talked to for Design Para sa Lahat are rich people to begin with who do not need any financial support in doing what they already do and have the infrastructure for! i am disgusted and offended and angered by this, and i am complaining! and i want to put in the word konyo for more sensationalism.

sige nga, sinong makakagawa ng feature tungkol diyan?

Posted in: arteng biswal, arts and culture, bayan, kapitalista, kultura, relihiyon

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39 Comments/Pingbacks

    • Gideon
      August 7, 2011 at 1:53 pm

      Well, it’s actually plain and simple what the “totality” of the art is…the whole thing. It’s two or three walls’ worth of stuff that can solicit lots of different reactions.

      I’m not sure what exactly your question is, GabbyD. If you’re offended, you’re offended, no one should impose on you whether that’s okay or not.

      But I don’t think the author here is telling you to NOT be offended, but rather asking you to look at and understand the whole piece before you arrive at a conclusion.

      • GabbyD
        August 8, 2011 at 4:18 pm

        i didnt say one shouldnt be offended. i am agree that we understand radikal’s point in the same way.

        but the key question remains. who decides what the totality might be? i dont know.

        more than that, i DO think that we should think about what we (as a society/individuals) should do when something offends us.

        in a free society, people will do things that piss us off, or bother us. should we try to shut stuff like that down ALL THE TIME?

        so, i think we all agree. stuff can offend us. but what we do in response isnt an involuntary act. it can’t. living in a free society depends on it.

        (i learned this from bertrand russell ,btw)

        • Silver
          August 9, 2011 at 3:11 pm

          I agree with Gideon, I’m not really sure what your question was. Your second post makes some good points but there are few unclear ones as well. I think Gideon clearly answered on the totality of an artwork. The whole physicality of a work has always been its totality since art was created. I don’t think he sighted you in particular to be not offended but by you he meant us/people. In a free society there will always be a sector trying to shut something down. There are precedents with regards to the arts in other countries. I’m not aware of any in the Philippines so we should definitely do something about it. Don’t you mean “what we do in response SHOULDN’T be an involuntary act?” Because instinct and first impressions can be involuntary but as people/humans we should turn to logic instead.

        • GabbyD
          August 10, 2011 at 2:27 am

          really? the notion of totality is vague to me. i’m not sure what it means. moreover, i’m not sure who gets to say what the totality of the piece is.

          thanks for the “should”. yes, i can see why this should be the proper word.

          for me, reactions arent involuntary. we can choose how to react. but ur right– i can see how “should” works too.

          ” In a free society there will always be a sector trying to shut something down” absolutely! but, in this same free society, there are limits as to how one can oppose something. this is key.

          • B
            August 10, 2011 at 10:52 am

            @GabbyD: I believe the kind of definition of “totality” you’re looking for is philosophical, as opposed to physical.

            I don’t think the point of this post was that “its OK to be offended as long as you get offended by the totality of it, and not just some specific aspect of it” but rather that there is something wrong about zeroing in on portions of the artwork, taking it out of the context of the entire work itself (this meaning the three or more walls of images all put together to form a sort of collage/installation), and taking offense at these small bits and pieces without bothering to get an understanding of what the entire work was trying to say.

            it’s sensationalism, narrow-mindedness and (in my opinion anyway) downright ignorance at its finest, sacrificing the right to creative expression.

  1. Nick
    August 6, 2011 at 12:30 am

    As far as I know, one of the Ten Commandment is “Do not take the name of the Lord in vain” I think he violated it. I’m not a religious type but I share the same feeling from those who other criticize some of his art. The BANQUET ccp is fine to me and it’s more look like in a horror movie scene but the rest hmm…

    • ina
      August 6, 2011 at 3:26 am

      @nick: if i’m to be as literal as the conservatives’ reading of “Poleteismo”, then i’d say, there were names taken in vain here. there were only images.

    • Gideon
      August 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm

      @Nick. Lord’s name taken in vain. So what?

      My feeling is the artist is challenging a lot of our feelings about the Catholic Church–actually, if you read more about it, you’ll find that this piece is only part of a whole exhibit from all kinds of artists who made pieces about Idols. That was the prompt, like an assignment from school.

      Another of the 10 Commandments is “Thou shalt not have any idols before me.” And yet, Mideo, the artist, in part of this piece of art, is suggesting that the very image of Christ is an idol. Very interesting, eh?

      • ina
        August 7, 2011 at 6:42 pm

        @Gideon: cheers!

  2. Miggy
    August 6, 2011 at 2:09 am

    Iba na ang panahon. Ang realidad na ang controlled environment at ang gallery na ang tunay na buhay. Kapag nakakita ng nagugutom na bata sa lansangan, napaka-normal nga naman. Pero kapag sa gallery idinala, todo ang luha, akala mo lilipad na patunong langit. Successful ang exhibit ni Mideo dahil maraming tinamaan, at sila itong mga galit na galit. Akala mo walang pinagkaiba ang araw-araw nilang napapanood na kababuyan sa tv.

    Ang negatibong reaksyon ng mga tao ang mismong ibig sabihin ng artwork ni Mideo. Ang galing. Natandaan ko tuloy ang Starving Dog exhibit ni Guillermo Vargas. Talaga nga namang labas ang pagka-hypokrito ng mga tao. Pag nakakita sila ng gutom na aso sa kalye deadma,pero pag sa loob ng gallery todo-react. Pag nakakita ng kababuyan sa kanilang mga pamamahay deadma, pero sa loob ng exhibit todo ang paghihinagpis. Genius!

    • ina
      August 6, 2011 at 3:28 am

      @miggy: YAN na mismo ang iniisip ko all this time. na itong media, at ang simbahan, at ang mga konserbatibo, at ngayon ang nag-vandalize ng trabaho ni Mideo, ginagawa nila precisely ang sinasabi ng Poleteismo na kahungkagan ng relihiyon at idolatry. SILA mismo ang nagpapatunay na epektibo ang trabaho. patataasin pa nila ang value ng work na yan, na ang tagal-tagal nang inilabas. in the process, sinong mukhang tanga ngayon? ;P

    • Silver
      August 9, 2011 at 3:13 pm

      Cheers! Tama ka dyan!

  3. KC
    August 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    1. I compare the exhibit with sex. It’s an art too. Only private. Its something you wouldn’t expose to public.

    2. I wanna dare people to do the same art with the picture of our President and/or pictures of their children and loved ones.

    • ina
      August 8, 2011 at 4:16 pm

      hey KC: astig the idea of sex as art. win. though of course if we are to see that argument through, we would see that in fact sex in all its various forms of undress is in our every day life. pinagkakakitaan ang sex araw-araw. at hindi siya pribado. may bersyon niyang pribado, pero ang paggamit sa kanya — at pagkritika — ay nasa araw-araw natin.

      re your second point: well, it’s beside the point. the art wouldn’t be the same to begin with, if it had other photos within it.

  4. Maliken
    August 8, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    it’s like everything inside his head was poured out into the naked eye and shown in public; from clean to being infested and rotten thoughts.
    This is what and how I look at it. Kung oobserbahan ninyo, it’s mixed up. everything’s mixed up…

    • ina
      August 8, 2011 at 4:19 pm

      @maliken: the mix up is part of the work. i will not go into the “infested and rotten thoughts” because i don’t agree with you on that one. the mix up, yes, but it was a room, one that’s familiar if we are to look at images of shanties and makeshift homes decorated with layer upon layer of posters and pieces of paper, random and disconnected, and yes, mixed up. THAT was the basic feel of this space, over and above the condoms and penises.

    • Silver
      August 9, 2011 at 3:17 pm

      @Maliken From what I read in an Inquirer article, the mix up collage was part of his concern. It is meant to symbolize our zeitgeist, how we got to our present cultural identity be means of our history and influences.

  5. Orlando Roncesvalles
    August 8, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    There are crimes against public morals, including the exhibition of obscene material. The offense is not protected by the constitutional freedom of expression. But “obscenity” is not well defined in the jurisprudence, although there is a case where the SC held that there is no criminal liability for exhibition for the cause of art of material that is only “slightly” obscene (Pp v Go Pin). In effect, artistic value counts as redeeming social value and negatives obscenity.

    The artist here probably has reasonable doubt on his side. And, with little doubt, your piece suggests that Pinky W prefers sensationalism to art. There she is protected by freedom of speech.

    • Silver
      August 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks for info sir

  6. wilson
    August 9, 2011 at 2:12 pm

    i like Mideo’s work. (ka batch ko ata sya sa UST or higher ng isang taon hehehe) tama nga na ito ay isang repleksyon sa reyalidad sa nakikita ko, nasa sa atin na lang ito kung katanggap tanggap ang sining na ito. at nasasa atin na din kung tama ba ito o mali. which in my case, tama lang ito. im a catholic but im not offended. people will curse me for where i stand. dapat malawak ang isip, hindi sarado. ang nakita lang eh ung pangkalabasang anyo, bakit hindi tignan at unawaan kung anu ba ang sinasabi sa kwarto na ito.

    cheers to radikalchick

  7. jun jun
    August 9, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    ok ok sige art na nga yan.. its all about idolatry. why not put images of other religion? bakit christianity lang. i dare the artist to put some islamic images on its exhibit. then i would be convinced na for arts sake yan. i doubt kung makapag exhibit pa ulit sya after offending muslims.

    • GabbyD
      August 10, 2011 at 1:46 am

      jun, islam is famous for not having iconography. they used their creativity, not to draw human faces, but in architecture and design. islamic buildings look really nice.

    • Silver
      August 10, 2011 at 1:38 pm

      @Jun jun: GabbyD is correct, Islam does not contain any images of Mohammed. It is not a religion that leans towards iconography or idolatry. FYI, if you take in to account the “totality” of the work, it also contains political, educational & capitalist icons.

      “i doubt kung makapag exhibit pa ulit sya”

      In cases when artists have used religious imagery that does not make a form of religion happy (mostly the Catholic church), yes there will be protests but institutions preserve the piece and/or the piece continues to persevere because eventually it becomes reflective of a zeitgeist.

  8. tatz
    August 10, 2011 at 9:14 pm

    i congratulate the artist for a very successful exhibit. this is his main purpose, very effective. hits a lot of feelings, challenged our critical thinking and created tons of debates. this is visual arts and the purpose is to challenge your mind on how you will interpret the art, it might be quite disturbing for the majority but for me the origin of this art is very deep and real. it portrays reality, very eye opening for me. I dont have anything against religions but as he says, we created new gods, Some have taken to worshipping money; some see politicians as godsend and that is very true. clap clap clap!

  9. tatz
    August 10, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    katawa tawa tong mga kala mo kung sinong napaka banal at malinis ang kunsensya na kung makapag react sa telebisyon kala mo mga dinuraan sa mukha. masyadong apektado dahil mga guilty, masyado kung makapag react dahil mga ganid sa kapangyarihan at pera kung saan ay paulit ulit na inaabuso ang kamangmangan ng kanyang mga kababayan. di nila alam sila ang mas nakakatawa sila ang mga bastos at walang galang silang mga tinamaan ng lintek na yan.

  10. pedro
    August 13, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    ang dating para kang may isang nirerespeto na walang kalaban laban na binastos. walang pinagkaiba sa yung mahal na mahal mong nanay at tatay pinicturan ng binaboy ang muka tapos nilagay sa exhibit. tipong kung may babastusin ka sana sariling nanay at tatay mo na lang kesa nanay at tatay ng iba…

  11. pedro
    August 13, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    ganun lang sana kasimple.. kung may nakikita ka man na mali dun sa nanay at tatay ng iba kailangan mo na bastusin yung nanay at tatay nila na alam na mong kung nanay at tatay mo yun e magagalit ka? para sakin yung artist nito di kayang magpasikat sa totoong art kaya ganyan na lang yung mga ginagawa nya.

  12. davidson t. castillo
    August 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    It was actually the media that shaped the reactions to this
    from mideo

    controversy in the popular mind. I felt the media was able to take the frame of those who were offended by it, take the frame of some politicians who reacted or overreacted to it, but were somehow hard-pressed in terms of taking the frame of the artist like me.
    Yesterday at 5:16am

    Mideo Cruz
    Sometimes it cannot be avoided that the reflections can be rather unpleasant. It forces us to actually reflect, to look at situations from different views and angles.
    Yesterday at 5:16am

    Mideo Cruz
    I think one of the greatest achievements is that the issue proves to the public how potent my installation art can be. We should take a second look if not give it importance in our lives and make it a point of reflection, engagement, understanding and if not even a place for participation.
    Yesterday at 5:15am

    Mideo Cruz

    By: Mideo M. Cruz
    Photos: 3
    Saturday at 6:45pm · Reshare

    Mideo Cruz
    Mahilig sa reliko ang mga Pilipino. Ako rin mahilig sa reliko… yung mga nakikita natin sa dingding… actually mga sarili kong reliko yan. High school pa lang ako kinokolekta ko na. Galing din yung iba sa mga lumang bahay, galing yung iba sa mga kaibigan, at minsan bili lang ako ng bili ng posters
    Saturday at 6:41pm

    Mideo Cruz
    Kapag tiningnan mo yung gitna hindi naman si Kristo yung makikita mo eh… salamin yun, isang convex na salamin. Isa itong repleksyon ng sarili mo at repleksiyon din ng komunidad mo. Pero hindi po ang repleksiyon ng isang artist!
    Saturday at 6:41pm

    Mideo Cruz
    Ang phallic symbol naman ay matagal nang simbolo ng lakas, ng power. Halimabawa, yung sinasabi nilang cross, elemento ito ng pinagdaanan nating kolonisasyon.
    Saturday at 6:41pm
    Mideo is now friends with Avon Arzaga Urbien-Mardo and 3 other people.

    Mideo Cruz
    Humihingi ako ng paumanhin sa mga nasaktan. Pero hindi ako yung tao na nagpipinta ng magandang bulaklak o magandang tanawin. Ang mga ginagawa kong proyekto ay mga bagay na susundutin ng kaunti ang ating mga pag-iisip.
    Saturday at 6:41pm

  13. albert
    August 19, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    ang stand ko lng bakit tatawagin malaya tayo kung sisikilin ang isang bagay na nais mong lng iparating sa tao ang iyong opinyon….tungkol sa ipinahihiwatig ng art ni mr mideo cruz..

  14. Keith
    October 2, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    This is just a question.

    What if it was really Mideo Cruz’ intention to be blasphemous?

  15. Patricia
    October 12, 2016 at 3:17 am

    Nice article! I’m very interested in this exhibition but I heard they shut it down because of the negative attention it gathered. Do you have more photos from this exhibition? Especially the one with the cross with the big phallic object attached to it? If you could sent it to me by mail, it would be very fantastic! Keep up the good work.

    • katrina
      October 12, 2016 at 3:45 am

      Hi Patricia! Sure! Will just gather the photos. I also have a Facebook album of it I think, if that’s easy for you to access? Cheers! — KSS.

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