The CCP is the center that nurtures art and culture; it is a center for the benefit of the people. It should be the sanctuary for artistic expressions that emanate from the marginalized even if these expressions offend those in power. It must stand strong against aggressive contentions to censor art, and instead promote well-informed and organized dialogues to educate audiences. The CCP’s primary mandate should be to protect freedom of expression to ensure that art speaks up as an agent of change.
The Palayain ang Sining artists’ coalition was formed on August 8 to rally the art practitioners – artists, critics, historians, and cultural workers – to uphold the fundamental right to freedom of expression at a point when CCP was besieged by the pressure of the ultra-rightist religious groups, mainstream media, and politicians including the President to close down the exhibit “Kulo” due to one controversial artwork bashed as sacrilegious and obscene. But, right at the point of further consultation, the CCP Board close the doors to the exhibit the very next day.
The exhibit “Kulo,” aimed to present the contemporary artist’s interpretation of Rizal’s teachings on life, love for the country, and revolutionary fervor of the artists to guard against any form of oppression, then and now. Yet, until now, the doors of the gallery remained closed; a clear sign that one hundred fifty years of Rizal has not opened our eyes to his accomplishment as an artist and how he wielded the power of art to awake society and call for the accountability of those who rule faith, education and governance.
This furor over an artwork has exposed the current situation of our “democracy” in its utmost absurdity. Clerics impose on state affairs, claiming the authority of doctrine over minds and bodies. Violence becomes understandable, grandstanding politicians moralize, and Imelda Marcos reclaims the CCP in her true, good and beautiful limelight. All these due to a perceived offense to religion. Commercialism triggers media into a righteous sensationalism. President P-Noy declares that freedom of expression is not absolute, yet calls for the shutdown of an exhibit and states that this is not censorship.
August 21 marks the end of the exhibit and yet the doors of the gallery remained closed. And we affirm that this is censorship. When the fundamental right of a person, of a people is systematically repressed, especially of the very institutions that are supposed to be mandated to protect these rights, it is censorship. Censorship must not be justified in any way – whether by pressure from patronage or tyranny of the powers that be. It should not be the weapon of the powerful. Censorship should never happen at the CCP.
As we close ranks among artists, cultural workers and institutions for arts and culture, we recognize that artistic expression must thrive with consciousness, accountability and responsibility. Nonetheless, Palayain ang Sining stresses that freedom of expression is still and will always be a basic and inalienable right. We shall stand vigilant, and be prepared to question any instrument that cowers us into silence and fear.
NO TO CENSORSHIP! NO TO PERSECUTION OF ARTISTS! YES TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION!
Palayain ang Sining, August 21, 2011