I wanted to provoke people into thinking. I titled my work ‘Poleteismo’ (Polytheism) 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. - Mideo M. Cruz on Polytheism Installation
“POLYTHEISM” (VIA PILIPINASBYANKO)
This is a bit of old news now in the Manila, but for the rest of Asia who do not know, in the last few weeks, The Philippines was embroiled in a huge debate about the censorship of so-called “blasphemous” work between the Church and its Contemporary Art community.
This controversial group exhibit, titled “KULO” or “BUBBLE” in English was staged at the CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) to celebrate a national hero’s 150th Birthday, also running it in conjunction with the University of Santo Tomas’ (UST) 400 years. This grand group exhibit was composed of works by 32 artists, some of which a few were former UST Students, dealt with the themes that National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, had to deal with in his day, in relation to political and religious hypocrisies witnessed at his time.
With that as a thread, each of the shows’ artists expanded on the “Bubble” theme in subtle and not too subtle ways. Obviously, the piece of art that pushed the envelope came from Internationally recognized, Mideo M. Cruz for his work “Polytheism”.
The Artist in front of his works.
Cruz’ installation, apparently was not new and has been touring around different venues locally and abroad for a better part of the last decade. The piece has only now garnered national attention, because the event and the venue were so high profile that the backlash was inevitable, yet still surprising to most young Manilenos who feel that for the most part, the Philippines should have already moved beyond dealing with the arts beyond a religious-based focal lens. Cruz’s work juxtaposes images of Catholic iconography and collaged this with pictures from pop culture, like scantily claded women, politicians, and objects like condoms. A bust of Jesus is depicted with Mickey Mouse ears, while another picture of Jesus has a wooden phallic object placed on his face.
While its true that the country’s religious majority is indeed Catholic, 74 Million worshipers to be exact, most have begun to question how much of a role the Church should play in their day to day lives, especially within social governance. The last few months alone, the Church has witnessed the increasing support for the Reproductive Health Bill, which could give aid to family planning programs and organizations dealing population growth countermeasures. And recently, political activists and social media gurus, like Carlos Celdran, have been quite vocal about the Catholic Church and its grip on the countries social policies, which have a direct effect on corruption and poverty. Needless to say, the Church has been on the defensive as of late, and felt that the “KULO” exhibit was an issue that could unite them and their supporters.
RELATED ARTICLES: The Reproductive Health Bill, Purple for Manila
That said, the show was supposed to close on August 21st, but was shut down earlier, in part due to pressure from the Religious Community and their Political supporters, and mostly to keep the works of what has turned out to be a milestone show, safe. (It survived a failed Arson attempt, but not a vandalisation by an unknown couple.) Lastly supporters of censorship and defenders of the piece have battled it out on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Those who defended the work feel that when a platform is possible, Art and its message should be supported, because when it comes down to it, a reaction to art is all about personal taste, and that dialogue between artists and their public should be free, open, and available. Meanwhile many do feel context of the work should be considered before exhibiting a piece that would obviously be offensive to the majority.
More Works by Cruz Below.
And Works by Other Artists in the Same Show…
+ An Article from Koreen Borillo’s Tumblr Site.
Early this month, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines tags Mideo M. Cruz’s “Polytheism” as blasphemous and a mockery of faith. Recent news tells “Kulo”, an art exhibit composed of works by 32 artists and former students from the University of Santo Tomas, a cradle of Catholic teaching, held at the CCP Main Gallery is closed down due to extreme reactions from the public.
Cruz, a 37-year-old visual and performance artist who has exhibited in such international art centres as New York, Paris and Tokyo, said he had wanted to provoke a reaction but was surprised by the violence of the response.
“You can’t force people. But I just hope that when we look at something, the process doesn’t stop at the surface,” he said.
Cruz said his installation, “Poleteismo” or “Polytheism,” is about the worship of relics and how idolatry evolves through history and modern culture.
Posters of Christ and the Virgin Mary, crucifixes and religious curios recall the 300 years of Spanish rule that implanted Catholicism in the Philippines, while images of Mickey Mouse, the Statue of Liberty and U.S. President Barack Obama point to the lasting influence of U.S. imperialism.
“This speaks about objects that we worship, how we create these gods and idols, and how we in turn are created by our gods and idols,” Cruz said.
One part of the installation is a giant wooden crucifix with a bright red penis that can be moved up and down, a symbol of a patriarchal society where men are “worshipped,” he said.
Merely standing in front of a piece of art does not assure a viewer’s appreciation. Appreciation includes understanding but not all understanding conveys appreciation. Art per se makes the spectator think and question its validity. Aside from appreciating its aesthetics, the spectator then, tries to establish his role by relating to that piece of art and the reason behind its creation.
+ Other Articles Regarding The “KULO” Show at CCP
Of Hypocrites and Wooden Penises by Dyslexic Rehtoric on Wordpress
Shock for Shock’s Sake by the Philippine Daily Inquirer
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