By Carmela dela Pena
Controversial artist Mideo Cruz on Friday asked for forgiveness from people offended by his art, but insisted his inclination is to do projects that are aimed at challenging the mind.
“Humihingi ako ng paumanhin sa mga nasaktan. Pero hindi ako yung tao na nagpipinta ng magandang bulaklak o magandang tanawin. Ang mga ginagawa kong proyekto ay mga bagay na susundutin ng kaunti ang ating mga pag-i-isip,” said Cruz in a report by Joseph Morong on Friday night’s State of the Nation (SONA) with Jessica Soho.
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Cruz’s mixed media installation “Poleteismo” was seen as offensive by many, particularly for its juxtaposition of religious images with phallic symbols.
“Nasasaktan [kami] dahil isa sa mga imahen na nabastos ni Mideo ay ang imahe ng Sacred Heart of Jesus,” a churchgoer told Morong during the Atonement Mass held at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish in Kamuning, Quezon City, last Friday.
“Hindi ko akalaing gawin nila yun sa Panginoon. Sinasabi pa namang ang Pilipinas ay isang Kristiyanong bansa. Pero nang malaman ko nga at makita [ang artwork]… nakakapangilabot,” said another.
The Atonement Mass at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish was a rare ritual to ask for forgiveness of the sins of other people.
“Ang gagawin natin ay tulad ng ginawa ni Kristo, na tayo ay hihingi ng tawad sa kasalanan ng iba,” said Fr. Teddy Abas before the ritual began.
In the Rite of Vicarious Atonement, priests walked barefoot in a procession, carrying a cross shrouded in violet cloth. In front of the altar, the priests lay face down and kissed the ground. The procession also went around the parish, stopping in front of the images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
Wondering what Mideo was trying to do with his art, another churchgoer at the atonement ritual said, “Why are you [Mideo] doing this? Particularly [to] the image of the Sacred Heart, tapos inilagay doon yung condom….”
Symbol of power
Although Cruz did not want to talk about his work, the situation has urged him to give an explanation, especially the “phallic symbol” in his artwork.
“Ang phallic symbol naman ay matagal nang simbolo ng lakas, ng power. Halimabawa, yung sinasabi nilang cross, elemento ito ng pinagdaanan nating kolonisasyon,” he said.
At an academic forum at the University of the Philippines Claro M. Recto Hall last Wednesday, Cruz explained that his work contains many different images and relics.
“Mahilig sa reliko ang mga Pilipino. Ako rin mahilig sa reliko… yung mga nakikita natin sa dingding… actually mga sarili kong reliko yan. High school pa lang ako kinokolekta ko na. Galing din yung iba sa mga lumang bahay, galing yung iba sa mga kaibigan, at minsan bili lang ako ng bili ng posters,” he said referring to his art installation Poleteismo, which had made the Kulô exhibit at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) controversial.
Moreover, he said “Kapag tiningnan mo yung gitna hindi naman si Kristo yung makikita mo eh… salamin yun, isang convex na salamin. Isa itong repleksyon ng sarili mo at repleksiyon din ng komunidad mo,” said Cruz on GMA News’ SONA.
“Makikita mo yung buong likuran mo. It’s like a reflection within a reflection. Parang continuous feedback siya, in a metaphorical way,” Cruz added.
He said he has been receiving invitations to exhibit Poleteismo both here and abroad, and that in future exhibits he said he would not remove the “offensive” images.
On Tuesday, the CCP Board of Directors closed down the Kulô exhibit due to threats to property and life of some people involved. Cruz was one of 32 artists in the exhibit, which displayed works dealing with current issues.
Charges have been filed against CCP officials, as well as Cruz, accusing them of violating Article 201 of the Revised Penal Code on obscene exhibitions and indecent shows.
CCP Vice President and Artistic Director Chris Millado said they [those involved] welcome the charges.
“Winewelcome namin ang pagsampa ng mga demandang ito dahil ang korte ay bahagi ng diskurso at engagement with the public,” he told reporters at a press conference last Friday.
Statements of support
Meanwhile, Cruz has received statements of support from people both inside and outside the artists community.
“To ignore something offensive is the best treatment, not to punish it,” wrote artist Lewis Gesner.
“If an artist is silent or invisible because they do not want to offend someone in the public, they may be doing damage by not expressing what art wishes. Art is important to the world and society, even when it goes against what opinions of others are, and what common knowledge is,” Gesner added.
“Everybody has the right to express their opinions, including artists and members of the Catholic church. But no one has the right to silence another’s voice,” wrote Ime Morales, a writer and child advocate.
Several groups have also expressed support for Cruz, including the Surreal Arts Club, Edge Zones Art Center, Italy’s Poly-artistic and Intermedial Association ARKA (H.C.E.) and Palayain ang Sining, an artist formation to uphold freedom of artistic expression. — LBG, GMA News