By Neil Ramos
MANILA, Philippines – “Kulo,” the controversial art installation exhibited at the main gallery of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), has been shut down.
Former First Lady and incumbent Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos, who spearheaded the creation of the CCP during the term of her late husband, President Ferdinand Marcos, claimed to have had a hand in its closure.
According to Marcos, she personally called on the CCP board to close the exhibit.
“I think I was able to convince the CCP board. The majority of them had decided that they will withdraw and take out the exhibit. It should never happen again,” she was quoted as saying in a report on GMA news, Aug. 8.
Marcos zeroed in on artist Mideo Cruz’ “Politeismo,” which form part of the exhibit, deeming it “blasphemous” as well as “ugly.” She derided Mideo’s creation for mixing images of Jesus Christ and the Holy Cross with that of phallic symbols as well as condoms.
“Just remember kahit ang mga tao sa tribo binabahagan ‘yan, tinatakpan, hindi ganito,” she was quoted as saying in a report in “Bandila,” also on Aug. 8.
She also took a jab at the seeming incongruity of the symbolism presented in the artwork.
“Ang condom hinihinto ang buhay. The Lord, he was hanged in the cross to save humanity.”
Marcos said that the installation could not be considered art – not even under the guise of freedom of expression.
“Freedom of expression daw. You can express yourself but express yourself in a beautiful way,” she said adding, “Dito sa Cultural Center ang bandila dito K. K . K.—katotohanan, kabutihan at kagandahan.”
But in the report aired on “TV Patrol” on the same day, it noted that Marcos did not feel the need to expel the current CCP president or file charges against Cruz. “Huwag nang parusahan sapagkat pinagtrabahuhan nila ito. Sabihan na lang nang kung anong tama at kung anong kahulugan ng Cultural Center—the good, the true and the beautiful.”
However, in a statement released by Malacanang on Aug. 9, President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino said that freedom of expression is not absolute and that he aims to take the CCP board to task about the matter.
Meanwhile, at the Senate, former comedian now Majority Floor Leader Vicente Sotto III is threatening to cut the CCP’s budget even as he questions its decision to allow the display of what he deemed a “profane” exhibit.
“Kung ganito lang rin naman (If it will be like this), as majority floor leader I will make sure that the CCP will cease to exist in the General Appropriations Act,” said he during Monday’s plenary session.
“Can you do this image to Mohammad? Can this be done to the image of Buddha? Neither should it be done to the image of Jesus,” he argued.
The CCP, in a statement released on Aug. 9, justified their decision to close the exhibit as a precautionary move aimed at the preservation of the safety of “Kulo” artists—and not because they merely gave in to the demands of the church or any political entity.
“Due to numerous emails, text messages and other letters sent to various officers of the CCP, and to the artists themselves, with an increasing number of threats to persons and property, the members of the Board of the Cultural Center of the Philippines have decided to close down the Main Gallery where the Kulo Exhibit is on display,” read part of their statement.
“Kulo,” which features the works of 32 artists from the University of Santo Tomas, was launched June 17, on the occasion of Jose Rizal’s 150th birthday, and was proposed by the CCP to jive with the University of Santo Tomas’ 400th anniversary. The exhibit was supposed to run until Aug. 21.
Earlier, Pro-Life Philippines has threatened to file criminal charges against the CCP management and the artists involved in the exhibit at the Office of the Ombudsman for the alleged offensive art work.
Their call was joined by one Primitivo Chua of the Jaime Cardinal Sin Assembly. Chua said he will file a criminal case against CCP officials for allowing the exhibit to be shown. He also called on the entire CCP Board to resign. Chua also chided Cruz for what he described as the latter’s seeming crooked mindset.
“It was very offensive not just to the sensibilities of Christians but to the ordinary layperson… Itong artist dapat yata magpatingin sa manggagamot. Mukha yatang taliwas ang takbo ng isip niya. Bakit siya gagawa ng ganyang klaseng artistic display? At nagtataka rin kami sa CCP, bakit nila pinayagan ito?” said he in an interview on ABS-CBN’s “Umagang Kay Ganda.”
Renan Ortiz of the Concerned Artist of the Philippines (CAP) laments the public’s reaction to Cruz’ artwork.
“Medyo makipot ‘yung pagtingin siguro nila sa art, sa freedom of expression, para sa kanila gusto nila [art] puro magaganda lang at mabubuti,” said he in a report on “Bandila.”
“We respect na nasa isang democracy tayo, at mayroon tayong sinasabing freedom of expression so, kung may freedom of expression si Mideo mayroon din ‘yung nasa church. Nevertheless, kahit nirerespect namin ‘yun, mali na ipapasara nila ang show.”