By Carmela Lapeña
Artists on Sunday gathered at the Cultural Center of the Philippines to protest censorship and show their support for freedom of expression following the controversy generated by a recent exhibit there.
Clad mostly in white, the artists marched up the CCP ramp to the main steps where a program was held to symbolically close the controversial Kulô exhibit, which featured Mideo Cruz’s Poleteismo.
“Hindi nagtatapos dito sa ating ginagawa ngayon na supposedly closing ng Kulo exhibit. Patuloy pa rin ang ating diskurso,” said Buen Calubayan, co-curator of the exhibit.
“What happened to Poletesimo, what happened to Kulô — it should be a warning to all of us. It’s a symptom of a greater crisis… despite our democratic processes, our minds are not free,” said Karen Flores, who resigned as CCP Visual Arts Department head following the furor over the exhibit.
Catholic groups labeled Poleteismo as blasphemous for juxtaposing religious images and representations of genitalia, among many other objects.
Cruz had already asked for forgiveness from people offended by his art, which he said was aimed at challenging the mind.
VIDEOArtists’ groups, meanwhile, voiced support to Cruz and Kulô during Sunday’s event.
“The exhibit aimed to present the contemporary artist’s interpretation of Rizal’s teachings on life, love for country, and revolutionary fervor of the artists to guard against any form of oppression, then and now,” read a statement from Palayain ang Sining, an artists’ coalition formed to rally art practitioners to uphold the fundamental right to freedom of expression.
“We shall stand vigilant, and be prepared to question any instrument that cowers us into silence and fear,” read Palayain ang Sining spokesperson Iggy Rodriguez.
“If art cannot be safe behind these doors at the CCP, then there is nowhere that it can be safe,” said Filipino Freethinkers spokesperson Kenneth Keng. “I am a Christian, and I am not offended by this exhibit.”
For his part, Dustin Celestino, another member of Filipino Freethinkers, said: “I am dressed up as Jesus to tell everyone that in our opinion, if ever there are gods, I don’t think they would be offended over art.”
Apart from short speeches, Sunday’s program included performances from Axel Pinpin, the Ugatlahi Artist Collective, Tao sa Laya, Talahib, Kilometer 64 founder Rustom Casia, and Airdance and the UP Dance Company.
CCP Vice President and Artistic Director Chris Millado noted that artists must also unite in order to promote understanding and appreciation of the arts.
“Kailangan din po natin, bilang artist na maalala na kapag nilagay natin yun, ay handa tayong panindigan ang ating sinabi. Handa tayong makipag engage at ipagpatuloy ang dialogo,” said Millado, adding that there is a need for art education, as well as financial support for the arts.
National Artist and chairperson of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines Bienvenido Lumera, who was the last person to speak, rallied artists to fight against censorship.
“Dapat natin igiit na ang artista ay hindi siyang magtatakda ng limitasyon sa kanyang paglikha ng sining. Bahala yung mga magmamasid, bahala yung mga manonood, bahala yung mga makikinig na siyang magpasya kung ano ang hindi dapat ginawa ng artista. Bilang manlilikha hindi niya dapat tanggapin na siya ang dapat magpapasya na ganito ang limit ng aking sasabihin. Pagkakataon ito upang ipakilala natin na tayo bilang mga artista ay may paninindigan tungkol sa tinatawag na freedom of expression,” he said. — KBK, GMA News