Artists group decries closure of ‘Kulo’ exhibit


The same day the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) closed down the main gallery where the controversial “Kulo” art exhibit was on display, an artists group on Tuesday condemned the decision, urging artists and members of the press to fight against censorship and attacks on freedom of expression.

“To allow the exhibit’s closure based on [the opinion of bishops and religious lay leaders] would set the precedent for all other exhibitions that would follow,” said the Palayain ang Sining through a Facebook note posted 4:22 p.m. Tuesday by artist Mideo Cruz, adding that the issue surrounding the exhibit and Cruz’ piece “has gotten out of hand.”

Cruz’ piece “Poleteismo,” which is part of the “Kulo” art exhibit, has been called “blasphemous” by critics and was vandalized last week.

The CCP said that they decided to shut down the gallery because of threats to persons and property. “This decision was made amidst controversy and deliberation by the Board as to what steps are necessary to avoid future similar incidents,” the CCP added.

In the manifesto, the artists’ group urged the public not to be “sidetracked” by the uproar over Cruz’s art work. Instead, they said, the bigger issue of censorship and repression should be addressed.

“Palayain ang Sining does not merely support Mideo Cruz. We support the fight against censorship, and against attacks on our basic right to freedom of expression.

“The bishops and religious lay leaders pushing for the closure of the exhibit are demanding not only that we persecute one person’s creative expression, but that we hinder any other creative expressions whose concept and presented ideologies they do not agree with,” the group said.

Criminal charges

Despite the shut-down, a conservative Catholic group said that they still intend to file criminal charges against the CCP and Cruz because “the Christian nation has been offended.”

To this, the artists group argued that “threats of filing legal charges have been made against the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and has cited Art. 201 of the Revised Penal Code. Yet this law in itself is contrary to Article 3 Section 4 of the Philippine Constitution.”

The said provision in the Constitution states that “no law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code meanwhile penalizes “those who shall publicly expound or proclaim doctrines openly contrary to public morals… those who, in theaters, fairs, cinematographs or any other place, exhibit, indecent or immoral plays, scenes, acts or shows,
whether live or in film, which are prescribed by virtue hereof, shall include those which… offend any race or religion; …are contrary to law, public order, morals, and good customs, established policies, lawful orders, decrees and edicts.”

Meanwhile, three senators have called on officials of the CCP to resign for allowing “Tuko” to be put on display, alleging that the exhibit offended Roman Catholics.

“Palayain ang Sining is direct in what it stands for: the fight for freedom in our creative expression; the fight against censorship and repression,” according to the group’s statement. — With Bea Cupin/VS/HS, GMA News

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