Imelda Marcos Puts Her Foot Down Over Controversial Dildo Jesus Art Show in the Philippines, Shuttering It

By Kyle Chayka

source: http://www.artinfo.com/news/story/38303/imelda-marcos-puts-her-foot-down-over-controversial-dildo-jesus-art-show-in-the-philippines-shuttering-it/

 

If there’s one thing guaranteed to raise hackles, its the kind of work by Mideo Cruz featured in the exhibition “Kulo,” which opened June 17 at Manila’s Cultural Center of the Philippines(CCP): The pieces in question feature images of Jesus with large dildos fixed to their collaged surfaces, extending visibly outwards. In one offending work, Jesus’s face is covered with a wooden ashtray topped by a semi-erect penis encircled by a dangling cross bracelet. In another, a large cross sculpture is adorned with a bright red dildo.

Reaction to the show has come hard and fast in the predominantly Catholic country, as religious groups threatened to sue the cultural center if the exhibition didn’t get taken down, and a Senate hearing was called to discuss the controversy.

“Kulo” has now been closed, at the urging of no less than former first lady Imelda Marcos, who spearheaded the original creation of the CCP. “You can express yourself, but express yourself in a beautiful way,” Marcos told the Manila Bulletin Newspaper, adding that the installation “could not be considered art.” (Among the political imagery in the installation that can be seen on the project’s Facebook page is a picture of Marcos herself.) Senate majority floor leader Vicente Sotto III threatened to cut the CCP’s budget.

Speaking up for the art on display, CCP president Emily Abera defended the center’s decision to show the work, arguing that, “it is part of our culture to question, to seek answers, to look behind the surface and try to dig out what our real values are,” according to the Manila Bulletin. Still, the artist understands that his work might not be well-received by all. “I cannot please everybody. I cannot tell them exactly how they will look and translate my work,” Cruz said to the Manila Standard. “But please don’t stop on the surface; if you will close your eyes upon seeing the images, there are more things to see.”

“The uproar [the pieces] created might be the unconscious denial of seeing ourselves truthfully in the mirror,” Cruz wrote to ARTINFO in an email. “The realities in our society is the real blasphemy of our own image; the blasphemy of our sacred self.”

Public sentiment seems to be split between those wanting more provocative art in the Philippines and those sincerely outraged by Cruz’s work. Manila Standard columnist Jenny Ortuoste writes, “I personally believe in freedom of expression. Stifling a country’s artists stifles its soul.” In this case, the Philippines might not be quite ready for an artist as soulful as Cruz.


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