Going to art exhibits and events since 2009, I find that what I enjoy most about it is the solitude and silence. I’m not known in art circles (or any circle for that matter) and can go around unobtrusively; on “gallery days” it’s rare that there are other spectators, least of all someone I know, in these art spaces. It’s a gift, a break I take even as it requires trips to places from UN Avenue in Manila to West Avenue in Quezon City. The time becomes mine, the art I own with my gaze.
It was with this same gaze, within the same task of going to see as many exhibits as I can, that I went to Kulô at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) on July 2 2011. I was doing Virgin Labfest 7 marathons, and made sure to come early to spend a good hour at the gallery. A day or so after, I virtually happened upon participating artist Pocholo Goitia and told him how much I loved the exhibit, the best of the Rizal efforts I’d seen so far; a couple of weeks after he tells me in passing that it’s gotten into some controversy or other and I brush it off: who has cared about art in the past three years that I’ve been engaging with it in my own way(s)? Given Kulô’s premises I also thought the only ones who’d wrongly take offense would be the University of Santo Tomas (UST), alumni as the exhibiting artists are of the said university, the Goitia essay particularly placing the exhibit within, beyond and against the said institution.
When the noise about Kulô became real to me, I couldn’t even believe it was about Mideo Cruz’s “Poleteismo.” My experience of the installation as part of the exhibit was limited to two points of interest: one, the manner in which the various works of Cruz were curated and put together into this one installation that allowed it to be powerful from outside without the crucifix and without zeroing in on what else was attached to those walls; and two, the fact that it still seemed to work for me, old as the work was. Context could only be the reason for the latter, and in the case of this exhibit which consisted of many old works, context was key: there’s the fact of UST no matter the individual relationships of the artists with the institution, and there’s the 150 years of Jose Rizal, a UST alumnus.