Share |

"Poleteismo" immature and juvenile - says National Artist

MANILA, August 16, 2011— Artist Mideo Cruz’s “Poleteismo”, an art installation wherein he put a wooden penis on the image of Jesus Christ, cannot be considered as a work of art, a national artist said Tuesday.

Francisco Sionil Jose, a National Artist for Literature, criticized Cruz’s work which was exhibited at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) as nothing but “immature” and “juvenile.”

He claimed that the real issue should not be about freedom of expression but whether or not Cruz’s work is art or not.

“I saw the pictures, which too many people object and I said this is not art. These pictures illustrate that the artist is immature and juvenile in his attempt to express his views,” Jose told senators at a hearing.

“This artist is not all that good because we do it when we were kids, where you put a mustache in people… what is that?” he said.

What is more disappointing, he said, is that CCP officials failed to recognize that Cruz’s installation was not art.

Although he urged CCP officials to be more discerning which artwork they should exhibit, Jose said the controversy doesn’t warrant the board’s resignation.

National Artist for Visual Arts Abdulmari Asia Imao also criticized Cruz for putting a phallic symbol on the face of Christ’s image.

“The use of penis at the front of Jesus Christ is a grave matter. I am a Muslim (yet) I know my religious parameters,” Imao said.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), through its vice president Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, argued there is limit to freedom of expression.

“We hold that no human freedom is absolute. Human freedom is a gift of God and has corresponding responsibilities to the moral law of God; to the rights of others; and to the common good,” said Palma.

The Church official also called on legislators to craft a law on the freedom of expression and its moral limits.

“We respectfully suggest that crafting of a law that covers freedom of expression through art include the corresponding responsibilities for the exercise of human freedom,” he said.

Palma also clarified that it is only Cruz’s Poleteismo that the Church is condemning and not the artist.

“In the same way that we condemn sinful acts but do not condemn the sinner, we condemn such artistic portrayal as objectively immoral; but we do not necessarily condemn the person or the artist who may not be aware of the objective immorality of his action,” he said.

The art installation that showed defaced Catholic religious images has set off an uproar not just among Catholics but even from other Christian denominations.

Cruz’s work is part of a group exhibit titled ‘Kulo” that was launched last July 17 and featured the works of 32 artists.

Critics said it was only Cruz’s installation that they found offensive but the CCP decided to closed down the entire exhibit last August 9.

The Senate education, arts, and culture committee’s inquiry into the controversy was aimed to determine whether the CCP violated any law for allowing the exhibit.

Present during the hearing were officials of the CCP led by its chairman Emily Abrera and president Raul Sunico, who were asked by some senators to resign amid the controversy.

Also present were national artist for visual arts Dr. Abdulmari Asia Mao, and UP College of Law dean Raul Pangalangan.

The senate committee said an invitation was sent to Cruz to attend the hearing but he was a no-show. [CBCPNews]