(Updated 6:45 p.m.) Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Visual Arts division head Karen Flores resigned on Wednesday amid the furor sparked by the allegedly blasphemous art exhibit at the CCP’s main gallery, a day after the exhibit was closed. Senators had also demanded Tuesday that CCP officials quit.
At a forum at the University of the Philippines-Diliman entitled “Art as Threat/ Threats on Art,” Flores announced that she submitted her letter of resignation, effective August 10, to CCP President Raul Sunico.
“It was really too much for me,” Flores said even as she denied that her resignation had something to do with the possible Senate investigation on the art exhibit.
“Baka may magtanong, ‘nagbitiw ka ba kasi magkakaroon na ng Senate inquiry?’ Hindi po, puwede pa rin akong ihabla, go ahead,” laughed Flores before sharing how Kulo came about.
Flores did not say if the resignation had been accepted by the CCP board, said GMA News Online writer Katrina Stuart Santiago, who was at the forum.
Flores’ resignation came a day after the CCP closed down the main gallery where the exhibit “Kulo” was on display.
Three senators had also demanded the resignation of CCP officials. So far only Flores has apparently heeded the call.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada even delivered a privilege speech about the subject. “Hinihiling ko na dahil sa kapabayaan ng mga board of directors ng Cultural Center of the Philippines na busisiin at suriing mabuti ang sinumang nagnanais na magpa-exhibit sa kanila, silang lahat na dapat ay magbitiw sa kanilang tungkulin simula sa araw na ito,” Estrada said before the Senate plenary on Tuesday afternoon.
“They ought to be fired from their job… That kind of exhibit was never envisioned by those who created the CCP,” said Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile during the same Senate session.
Among the artworks displayed was Mideo Cruz’s mixed-media collage called “Poleteismo,” which touched off vehement protests from Catholic church leaders and politicians for juxtaposing religious images with clowns, Mickey Mouse ears, and a bright red penis.
In its statement, CCP said the shutdown was done because of security reasons and the “[increase] in the number of threats to persons and property.” After vandalizing the exhibit last August 4, a couple had reportedly attempted to set fire to the exhibit.
The CCP denied that the exhibit was closed down as a form of censorship.
Flores’ announcement came right before she delivered a talk about the controversial exhibit and how she felt the media, and two news organizations in particular, had “sensationalized” the issue, particularly “Poleteismo.”
In her talk, Flores narrated how “Kulo” came to be.
“CCP approved the proposal. It was an interesting premise, to see between two national celebrations, a possibility of a complex discourse between institution and individual,” she said Flores, reading from the proposal.
The proposal states that “‘Kulo’ is an articulation of different thoughts of each artist which may spark conversation to the viewing public. It is expressed through different forms, through various representation. Art may be viewed in diverse ways that may trigger a multitude of reactions, from emotional responses to more intellectual discourse.”
U.P. College of Mass Communications Dean Roland Tolentino pointed out that although many have expressed their opinions on the artwork, few have actually gone to see it.
“We need to read critically. The tragedy of it all is wala na tayong text,” said Tolentino, explaining that without actually viewing the exhibit, the reading can only be at a superficial level.
“Media is also evolving at this time. It doesn’t know how to deal with contemporary situations using contemporary technology,” said Tolentino.
Tolentino also noted that today’s media allows a sort of citizen empowerment that also comes with serious repercussions. “Lahat tayo may judgment. Ordinary people are now able to make judgment calls,” he said.
Art Studies Professor Flaudette May V. Datuin said the exhibit should have been a teachable moment. Discussing the nature of offensive images, she pointed out that the law gets involved when the image offends many powerful people.
“Art is impossible to legislate. There’s a need for framing, kasi nauuna sa atin yung framing ng media. And then, critique and assessment of the artwork. Nawawala kasi. Sa lahat ng theory nawawala yung artwork. The first recourse of the art historian is to look at the artwork… di ko pa nakikita yung exhibit, sinara na. So papaano yun?” she said.
“Only by preserving a free space artistic license where offending images are tolerated can we hope to understand what it is that gives images so much power over people and what it is about people that brings this power into the world,” she ended, quoting art historian W.J.T. Mitchell.
After her talk, Flores refused to answer any more questions from the media, Santiago reported. — Carmela Lapeña and Candice Montenegro/KBK/HS, GMA News