Our silly Senators, again

‘Di ko talaga maiintidihan ang pinagiinitan sa Senado sa ngayon tungkol sa “Kulô” ng art exhibit na kinatitigilan man lang sa Cultural Centre of the Philippines (CCP).  Ito ang pinagmumunuan ng ilang mga art students na galing sa University of Santo Tomas (UST); itinakda na tatakbo ito mula June 17 hanggang August 21; pero pinilitang ipabasura itong exhibit dahil sa mga pinagkalat na mga larawan na ang rebulto at imahen ni Hesus ay “pinagbaboy” ayun sa ila’t ilan.

Ayun kay CCP legal counsel Atty. Jo Imbong;

“Is it our cultural heritage to mock and insult religious personages and icons? Is it aesthetic to vandalize a venerated representation of objects of worship and reverence? Is vulgarity and blasphemy a Filipino value? What Filipino pride can emerge for such works? Is this our national identity, and CCP promotes it?”

Pati nga ang dakilang sawsawero, ang “Archbishop Emeritus” daw na si Asscar Cruz, ikinamumuhi niya ang kanyang alma mater dahil pinayag nila ito makakalusot sa standards nila.

“I’m ashamed of my alma mater. I’m a UST product, a Dominican product from head to foot. If these are the kind of artists (of) the so-called pontifical and royal university, then I renounce my alma mater. Bakit hindi nila napigilan ito? Bakit hanggang ngayon walang sinasabi? Parang bulag, pipi at bingi ang UST.”

What galls me is the national outcry that the exhibit generated – no thanks to the Internet, pictures of the offending imagery has circulated far and wide, galvanizing largely negative public opinion against Mideo Cruz, the artist whose majority of works were featured there under the title Poleteismo.

It was Mideo who was the focal point of the orchestrated web-driven lynch mob resulting from the exhibit’s allegedly blasphemous content – of which the likes of former First Lady and “patroness of the arts” Imelda Marcos and House Speaker Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada have openly decried (the latter in true melodramatic fashion befitting his showbiz background).

To quote one such attendee at a forum raised by the CCP in reaction to the exhibit:

“Malaswa! Hindi gawa ng Pilipino, Gawa ng demonyo, (Vulgar! Not the work of a Filipino. It’s the work of the devil)”

*cue comic beat*

So that means anyone who’s not a Filipino is the devil?

At a time when there are definitely much more pressing needs that our elected solons should devote their efforts, it galls me that a mere art exhibit – and a rather amateurish effort at that – should be the focus of so much righteous anger from those in power.  Some have compared the resultant reactions to Middle Eastern fatwas, raising alarms of an Islamic-style fundamentalism pervading the hierarchy of the local Roman Catholic Church (Speaker Jinggoy Estrada was quoted in a PhilStar article that Poleteismo could be conceived only by someone who’s out of his mind or a demon straight out of hell)

My point here is not exactly about the content or the message that poor Mideo Cruz was trying to convey but how it was conveyed – artistically, any teenager with mad decent Photoshop skills can get a similar reaction by juxtaposing Jesus with FHM models.   To put it bluntly – it was puerile and somewhat crass, to say it in the vernacular, KSP (kulang sa pansin) talaga.  Eh sa pamagat lang, napa-epic fail talaga, dahil ang “Kulô” ay katinig naman ng salitang “culo”, ang salitang-kalye na kadalasang ginagamit ng mga Chicano o Mexican-American para sa puwet.

Naalala mo ba ang batikang Amerikanong artist na si Robert Mapplethorpe?  Ganyan rin ang naging reaksyon mula sa ilan sa US Congress noong ipinagkita ang  kanyang “Perfect Moment” exhibit noong 1989 pa.

In the summer of 1989, Mapplethorpe’s traveling solo exhibit brought national attention to the issues of public funding for the arts, who defines what is obscene, and what censorship should be acceptable. The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. had agreed to be one of the host museums for the tour. Mapplethorpe decided to show his latest series that he explored shortly before his death. Titled Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Moment, it was curated by Janet Kardon of the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA).[13] The hierarchy of the Corcoran and several members of the U.S. Congress were upset when the works were revealed to them, due to some of the content being homoerotic and
sadomasochistically themed. The museum refused the exhibit’s stop during the national tour.

In June 1989, pop artist Lowell Blair Nesbitt became involved in the censorship issue. Nesbitt, a long-time friend of Mapplethorpe, revealed that he had a $1.5 million bequest to the museum in his will, but publicly promised that if the museum refused to host the exhibition he would revoke the bequest. The Corcoran refused and Nesbitt bequeathed the money to the Phillips Collection instead. After the Corcoran refused the Mapplethorpe exhibition, the underwriters of the exhibition went to the nonprofit Washington Project for the Arts,[14] which showed all the images in its space from July 21 to August 13, 1989, to large crowds.[15] According to the ICA, “The Corcoran’s decision sparked a controversial national debate: Should tax dollars support the arts? Who decides what is “obscene” or “offensive” in public exhibitions? And if art can be considered a form of free speech, is it a violation of the First Amendment to revoke federal funding on grounds of obscenity? To this day, these questions remain very much at issue.”[13][16]

Ayun ang entry galing sa Wikipedia.

One of the issues raised was that the CCP – a venue subsidized by public funds from largely Catholic taxpayers – has allowed an exhibit of such nature to be tolerated within its premises.  Gayun rin ang tinatama sa aking halimbawa kina Mapplethorpe.

Ayun naman kina Sen. Joker Arroyo, di lahat na itinutupad sa tinuturing First Amendment ng United States Constitution ay dapat ipahihintulad rin dito sa Pilipinas – e di ba ipinapagmana natin ang ating demokrasya sa mga ‘Kano?.

On the other hand, the exhibit managed to drive home the deficiencies of our Catholic faith in general – particularly how we take so much stock into mere symbols such as icons and statuary, we often forget the benefits of good works and deeds as well as living the “Christian” life on a 24/7 basis.  That could explain why more and more disillusioned, disenchanted Filipino Roman Catholics are joining “born-again” movements left and right – is it because they find that chanting rote prayers in repetition and making largely ceremonial gestures to wood and stone representations do not truly represent a religion relevant to today’s increasingly fast-paced, low-attention-span lifestyle?  Or is it because they find that God’s present servants on this earth have become no better than your local “friendly neighbourhood” politicos – with all their frailties becoming public fodder for a ravenous mass media?

Did it have to take a Mideo Cruz to give the Filipino public a righteous shock to the system in the way it has viewed religion?  We Pinoys often take pride in being a bulwark of the Roman Catholic faith in this region – at a time when Catholicism is practically dying in the West, with more churches finding their spaces empty (if not for the random OFW or maybe a gaggle of them) and clergy being viewed with cynical suspicion or even public derision.  Even boxer-cum-politico Manny Pacquiao, a global ambassador to the world for Pinoy identity, needs to rub it in that he’s very much a Catholic when it comes to his decision-making capabilities (as he has proven during his recent stand on the RH Bill)

It’s not like adding 1 to 1 to get 2 in the sense that this exercise enables our esteemed solons to bare their bias toward the Catholic Church once again in decrying the existence of Kulo.

Heh heh heh. Geddit - "bare" "bi" "ass"

Even more so, that has exposed our Senate, once again, as a house full of photo-op “cam whores” eager to strike poses for the mass media in the guise of action.  Yes, they can jump to the case when it involves hot-button media-friendly issues like sex-video scandals and art exhibits, but there seems to be a lethargy when it comes to addressing pressing concerns like youth unemployment and information freedom.

Yes, take a bow, our silly little Senators.


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