Category Archives: Statements

Art and the right not to speak

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S.J.

source: http://opinion.inquirer.net/10425/art-and-the-right-not-to-speak

 

Art, or what different people call art, is or can be a form of expression. Like any expression it is protected by the freedom of speech clause of the Constitution. There are only two forms of expression that are not protected by the Constitution: libel and obscenity. Sacrilegious expression which is not libelous nor obscene is protected.

Art can be libelous if it projects something that is untrue about another in a manner that does harm to a person or to his reputation by tending to bring the object of the art into ridicule, hatred or contempt by others. Libel is presumed to be malicious and can be the basis of award for damages.

Art can also be obscene. But what is obscenity? The basic guidelines for a court trying to determine whether a particular work is obscene are: “(a) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest . . . (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law, and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” These are guidelines which Philippine jurisprudence has accepted.

But stricter guidelines are also accepted in situations where material is forced on minors who are not looking for it, as for instance in television shows during hours when minors can be presumed to be still watching. Our Court has called it “relative obscenity.”

I understand that a court case, (whether criminal or civil, I do not know), has been filed against the officers of the Cultural Center of the Philippines and against the artist of the exhibit. Those suing will be hard put to prove obscenity or libel on the basis of the accepted standards for these offenses. Whose honor or reputation are being maliciously damaged? What patently offensive sexual conduct is being depicted? The suit might also be for “immoral doctrines and exhibitions” under Article 201 of the Penal Code. We will all be watching how far such a suit can prosper. Since art, even ugly art, is a form of expression, it can be made punishable only when it presents a clear and present danger of an evil which the state has the right to prevent.

I come now to the other aspect of freedom of expression, namely the freedom not to speak. Since the CCP has withdrawn the exhibit, this means that the CCP has decided to discontinue its sponsorship of the exhibit. In other words, the CCP has decided to exercise its right not to speak. But it is not thereby saying that the objects may not be exhibited elsewhere. (By discontinuing the exhibit, however, was there a violation of contract? That is another question.)

But, as is well known, the CCP was created through Executive Order 30 for the purpose of promoting and preserving Filipino arts and culture. As its website says, it has sought “to truly embody its logo of katotohanan (truth), kagandahan (beauty) and kabutihan (goodness).”

The question I would ask is whether the CCP, a government agency, may be compelled to show whatever artists feel should be shown. Put differently, is the CCP free to choose what it wants to show without violating freedom of expression?

While what is expressly guaranteed by the Constitution is the freedom of speech or expression, the guarantee does not exclude the freedom not to speak. The freedom not to speak is pure common sense such that, perhaps, for this reason there is no constitutional provision specifically guaranteeing it.

From where I sit, I see the problem confronting the CCP as analogous to the problem of local governments in deciding whether to allow a monument in a public park. The government has the right to choose what permanent monuments it may sponsor in government parks. Although a public park is a traditional public forum, the display of a permanent monument in a public park is a form of “government speech.” No one can dictate to government what speech it should make or sponsor. As one decision puts it: “Governments have long used monuments to speak to the public. Since ancient times, kings, emperors, and other rulers have erected statues of themselves to remind their subjects of their authority and power. Triumphal arches, columns and other monuments have been built to commemorate military victories and sacrifices and other events of civic importance. A monument, by definition, is a structure that is designed as a means of expression. When a government entity arranges for the construction of a monument, it does so because it wishes to convey some thought or instill some feeling in those who see the structure.”

Accordingly, cities take some care in accepting donated monuments. They may not be compelled to accept everything offered. The monuments that are accepted have the effect of conveying a government message, and thus constitute government speech.

I look at exhibits in the CCP in an analogous way. The CCP is a government institution missioned to display what it considers to be katotohanan (truth), kagandahan (beauty) and kabutihan (goodness) and not what others consider to be such. Artists whose work the CCP does not accept are free to exhibit their work elsewhere. The issue is not freedom of speech but freedom not to speak.

Statement of Unity, Palayain ang Sining: on the Closing of Kulo Exhibition

source: http://www.facebook.com/notes/roselle-pineda/statement-of-unity-palayain-ang-sining-on-the-closing-of-kulo-exhibition/10150348054770802

 

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

Not their stand

source: http://www.visayandailystar.com/2011/August/18/letter.htm

Not their stand

The news article entitled “Artists join Church protest” by Nida Buenafe on August 16, 2011 of the Visayan Daily Star, states that the Bishop was “acknowledging the Bacolod and Negros artists for their show of support to the church-led indignation rally…” We would like to clarify that the presence of a number of visual artists in the rally does not mean the support by all Bacolod and Negros artists of that particular church-led initiative, which included the burning of an effigy and the political championing of other causes that have nothing to do with the issue involving Politiesmo.

We refuse to be drawn into a political move concerning the installation of Mideo Cruz’s work at the CCP since the Church simplified the problem by turning it into an exclusive case of an attack to their faith. We condemn any move asking for a law that will allow the regulation of art exhibition and thus artistic freedom, confident in our constitutional rights as laid down in Article III Section 4. of the 1987 Philippine Constitution that provides, “No law shall be passed abridging the freedom of speech, of expression, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and petition the government for redress of grievances.”

We remind all sectors that an artist is responsible to his truth and it merits the soul of the community that it is so. The united stand of our community of artists is NO TO CENSORSHIP.

SIGNED:

Charlie Co, Gallery Orange

Dennis Ascalon, Black Artists in Asia

Peque Gallaga

Nunelucio Alvarado, Pintor Kulapol

Raymond Legaspi

Performance Laboratory, Maskara Theatre Ensemble

B-sides

Puwersa Pintura

Manny Montelibano, Produksyon Tramontina

Alla Prima

Art Association of Bacolod – Negros

Roger Salvarita, Malkootha Arts Bud

Dwight Rodrigazo, Dance Pull Company

Perception and perspective in the art of Mideo Cruz

By Constantino C. Tejero

source: http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/9887/perception-and-perspective-in-the-art-of-mideo-cruz

 

Perception is all. Perspective is all.

With this in mind, one can turn the bishops on their heads by drawing a few biblical allusions for their bête noire of the moment, artist Mideo M. Cruz: a voice crying in the wilderness; a prophet ostracized in his own land—or just another charlatan.

This arose from the overheated debate over Cruz’s art installation “Politeismo,” part of the University of Santo Tomas alumni-artists’ exhibition “Kulô” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ Bulwagang Juan Luna (Main Gallery).

Cruz is a Thirteen Artists awardee, conferred by the CCP in 2003. He is one of our more uncompromising artists, with the likes of Alwin Reamillo, Wire Tuazon, Henri Cainglet, Romeo Lee, José Tence Ruiz, Louie Cordero, José Legaspi.

He appears committed to his art and doesn’t seem to care whether his artwork is financially lucrative, well-liked by collectors, or puts his life and limb at risk. Typical of his confrontational art is “Politeismo,” an installation of collage and assemblage of found objects.

What ups the ante is the artist’s reconstitution of the venerated icons of the Cristo Rey, the Sagrada Familia, the Virgin Mary, the rosary and the cross, incorporating or juxtaposing them with condoms, wooden penises, McDonald’s mascot, Mickey Mouse, Coca-Cola, in a stream of free association that plays like a visual equivalent of “Finnegans Wake.”

Significance and signification

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, understandably, first sounded the alarm, meriting space on front pages and being editorialized even by newscasters. “Blasphemy!” was bandied about (the precise word should be sacrilege).

For weeks thence, the artist was savaged by critics, until the discourse was no longer rational, going beyond the significance and signification of the whole exhibit. The debate had turned visceral, crying to heaven for human blood.

Cruz’s critics went below the belt, advising him to go to a psychiatrist or threatening him with incarceration, if not hellfire. A couple vandalized the installation.

(Shouldn’t those vandals be the ones who ought to seek psychiatric help? Or be haled into court for destruction of property, defamation and attempted arson?)

And who would breeze into the gallery one day but the founder of the CCP herself, former First Lady and now Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos? This patroness of arts and letters used to be feared and abhorred by progressive elements of the art community during martial law, conjuring images of Lady Macbeth, Maleficent, Morgan le Fay, mistress of sulfur and mandrake.

As she walked around the gallery with her retinue, everyone awaited with trepidation. The verdict: Preposterous!

She looked unflappable, but she was, of course, scandalized by the artist’s obsession with his penis. When she saw it, she nonchalantly said: “Even tribal people cover their privates with loincloth.”

On seeing the condom, she blithely commented something about the thing as an agent of death while God was pro-life and for procreation.

She believed, though, that there was no need for CCP officials to resign or the artist to be penalized. Improbably, she proved to be more Christian in tolerance than others; more catholic in taste than the so-called Catolico cerrado (an oxymoron).

Cult of the phallus

Finally, things fell apart, the center couldn’t hold. The war of attrition waged by a vociferous public, plus a “request” from Malacañang, closed down the exhibit last Tuesday. The following day, CCP Visual Arts Division director Karen Flores resigned.

How does one look at a piece of art? Without necessarily understanding it, one may approach it from a sociological, psychological, formalist or moral angle. All approaches are valid, though each is rather self-limiting.

That is, if one looks at a piece from a Marxist, feminist or biographical perspective, one works only within the constraints of Marxism, feminism or the artist’s life, disregarding the subject’s other probably richer aspects.

Try the archetypal approach. It seems to be the most appropriate to this kind of thing, as it is all-embracing, with a little of everything and a focus on the cultural significance of the subject.

As Cruz’s critics primarily focus on his dildos and condoms, we can here investigate the cult of the phallus (which gave birth to Greek tragedy). It is racial memory embedded in the subconscious.

Since the Stone Age through the Classical period to the Renaissance and the Baroque to the present, the human genitalia has been a component of great art. Paleolithic art is replete with genitals, specifically those fertility statuettes such as the “Venus of Willendorf,” a figurine with anatomical exaggeration but the pubic triangle painstakingly scratched on the limestone.

Genital display had been the order of the day since. Among the most prominent are from the Archaic through the Classical and Hellenistic periods: the kourous (male youth, thought to be an image of Apollo); heroic statues of Hermes and Bacchus; the “Apollo Belvedere,” the “Diskobolos,” “Spear Bearer,” “Sleeping Satyr,” “Weary Herakles,” “Aphrodite and Pan,” “The Dying Gaul.”

Cult of paganism

On the cusp of the Renaissance, Dominican friar Savonarola inflamed people with sermons attacking the “cult of paganism.” This sent the art world in a tizzy. One of the victims was Botticelli, who duly burned his “pagan” paintings and was reduced to doing religious pieces.

Thanks be to God, the friar met a fiery end. Had he triumphed, we wouldn’t have now those mammoth masterpieces from the High Renaissance, Mannerism and Baroque: “The Creation of Adam,” “Expulsion from the Garden,” “The Last Judgment,” the “David”; Raphael’s “Galatea,” Titian’s “Bacchanal” and “Danaë,” Vasari’s “Perseus and Andromeda”; the various rosy Crucifixions adorning churches (one Mannerist version shows the Crucified Christ’s pubic hair).

It must be noted that most of these anatomically correct pieces had sacred functions before they were profaned and secularized into numerous odalisques and majas desnudas. They were religious in origin, even the various fertility venuses of Paleolithic art and the funerary and votive kouroi of the Archaic period.

Cruz’s reconstitution of icons is not even unprecedented. There was that notorious case in the 1980s, Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” an image of the crucifix submerged in urine. Described as “the original shock art,” the piece was hammered by Christian protesters.

There was also Chris Ofili’s dung-embellished painting-collage of a black Virgin Mary a decade later.

In fact, Cruz’s colleagues Legaspi, Reamillo and Cordero have had their share of desecration of Christian iconography.

In fact, “Relic,” that cross with the phallus, is an old artwork Cruz exhibited in 2005. And in the 2003 edition of the “Sungdu-an” exhibition, he had dozens of these wooden phalluses surrounding a doll in a Maria Clara attire.

Those, of course, escaped the eye of the CBCP. Only regular gallery-goers saw them. So no ruckus, rumpus or fracas was raised.

It didn’t help that Cruz wasn’t too articulate when explicating his art. He could hardly put across his arguments about the phallus as symbol of patriarchy; the commodification of art; consumerism and materialism as the new world order; the commercialization of religion as the new idolatry—all that jargon-filled justification of his installation lost on a bloodthirsty crowd.

Mystery of Incarnation

It now appears many of these Catholics have not fully grasped the nature of their religion. There are some things in their faith that they cannot countenance, such as the mystery of the Incarnation, a prime doctrine of the Church wherein Jesus Christ is completely both God and man.

Yes, we know he suffered and died as humans do—but if we believe the second person of the Trinity did, indeed, assume human form, doesn’t it follow that he also possessed physical human attributes, such as genitalia? This the faithful can hardly comprehend, let alone confront. They see the Day of Circumcision as a religious rite of passage but not as proof of the presence of Christ’s penis.

Religious icons are just outer manifestations of an inner faith. You can haggle over their prices outside Quiapo Church. However, some of the faithful treat them like graven images meant for worship, going against the injunction of the First Commandment.

One must neither be a conservative nor a liberal when one approaches the realm of art, be it in a state-sponsored institution, on a street corner, at a mall, private home, or the nunnery. An open mind can go a long way. Self-righteousness won’t get you far.

And then you ask the crucial question: But, is it art?

Good question. But then, who can tell? With all the postmodernism and conceptualism going around, can anyone claim to have the last word? Are you the measure of all truths? (What presumption.)

Today the conservatives may have won, but it is a Pyrrhic victory, short-lived and costly. It has become a cycle since time immemorial.

There is something that cannot be denied the artists. If they stop Cruz now, someone else will do it in the next few years. Because these people are merely giving expression to the memory of the race.

Perspectives on ‘Kulo’ and ‘Polytheism’

By Rachel Mayo

source: http://lifestyle.inquirer.net/9883/perspectives-on-%E2%80%98kulo%E2%80%99-and-%E2%80%98polytheism%E2%80%99

 

Media people hungry for sensational news created this furor which now threatens artistic freedom.

It all began when a television crew sneaked into the Main Gallery of the CCP and took shots of selected elements of Mideo’s work and immediately showed these clips to a prominent Catholic religious figure for a reaction. It was a blatant attempt at generating conflict, which was good copy and revenue for them.

Mideo’s art may be viewed as strange for most, but desecration of religious objects has through times been created by artists who have strong feelings about religion and its role and influence in their lives. Indeed, Mideo’s approach may have been quite grossly exaggerated, which probably was intended in the first place, to hit at the collective nerve.

The role of the artist in society is like an antenna. It picks up signals from its collective psyche. It is beyond the material, mental, emotional and spiritual realm of this collective. Art seeks to express in symbols that which affects this collective.

The role of art usually serves as a tool to evolve our consciousness on certain issues surrounding its society—in matters of politics, economics, religion. Mideo was simply critiquing on the power of the Church and its position on matters that concern him and his society.

Collapse of canons

Mideo’s use of religious objects that he aligned with popular and consumerist symbols is his way of saying that all these has become one and the same for him, and that the religious objects have lost their spiritual meaning in the lives of many—“the collapse of cultural canons within the society.”

Mideo’s concern is legitimate because, as an artist, he spoke from his heart and mind about the things of this world that concern him. Maybe he outdid himself in utilizing these objects of worship by using too much of it, almost at the point of outright anger and disgust.

He utilized the condom and the phallic upon these objects to editorialize on the issue regarding the RH Bill—assigning the images of worship as a symbol to refer to the Catholic Church, known to be critical of this proposed law.

Bold and expressive artists are usually known to be open-minded about matters of faith and religion. It is part of their psychic make-up. They put all their thoughts, feelings and time in the creation of their works without inhibition.

Media should have balanced their coverage by not only asking the priests and the man on the street about specific elements of Mideo’s work but also consulting art critics and academicians to explain the work to them for a more balanced perspective. However, even if it were explained to them, they would only see the surface and Mideo would still be misunderstood.

Reflective activity

Art is a reflective activity that communicates new ideas towards the formation of new world views that eventually affects the future. A good artist has a profound understanding and awareness of his time and can act as an early-warning system of changes to come.

Art that creates powerful symbols through its imagery is effective in speaking to the hearts and minds of people in a subliminal manner, its codes revealed only upon introspection.

The impact of Mideo’s art cannot be discounted due to its persistent presence in media today, which has, in fact, unwittingly (again) assisted in allowing Mideo’s message to seep into the sublime sphere of the collective psyche. Despite the fact that this has generated so much debate and anger and pain on all fronts, Mideo’s art has obviously stirred up the collective sentiment, and often such incidents may result in a shift in culture.

Rudolf A. Treumann notes this phenomenon in his article “The Cognitive Map and the Dynamics of Information”—“It is only afterwards when the public has digested art and internalized it to the degree where no one is conscious of its strangeness, that rational thinking awakens.”

Media’s pervasive exposure of Cruz’s art to the public generated so much interest and curiosity. People—who usually stayed away from art exhibits—began trekking to the CCP to view the show (before it was ordered closed).

When they begin to ask themselves why this art is so… then, in a subliminal way, Mideo may succeed as a catalyst for future change.

The author is an artist and art critic.

Statement on the Closure of the “Kulo” Exhibit at the CCP by the Department of Art Studies, UP Diliman

source: http://www.facebook.com/notes/flaudette-may-datuin/statement-on-the-closure-of-the-kulo-exhibit-at-the-ccp-by-the-department-of-art/10150738921600635

 

No to Closure, No to Censorship!

 

We, faculty members of the Department of Art Studies, University of the Philippines in Diliman, urge the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) to reopen the exhibition “Kulo” featuring 32 works from artists who contributed to the curatorial concept of revolutionary ferment in contemporary Philippine society as inspired by Dr. Jose Rizal’s life and ideals.

While there are contending interpretations of an image presented by art, the ethical course of action is to process the contentions and that is what art ensures: a process of communicative action. The closure of an exhibition only achieved the closure of democratic, informed and thoughtful engagement.

 

While freedom of expression and artistic license are not absolute and must be guided with reflexivity, accountability and responsibility on the part of makers of art, the freedom is fundamental, and inalienable. The work in question is art, and while it is a site of struggle over meanings and definitions, it is protected as expression in a free society. It may violate and offend community and common standards of morality, but it would be more productive for us to bring the discussion in a well-informed manner, to study and discuss our own responses and in the process, gain new knowledge and insights, and hone our visual competencies and literacy. Why for instance do images have the power to offend and provoke an excess of emotion and action?

 

Now, without the artworks to look at and experience in actuality, and without benefit of proper framing and venue, such informed and engaged discussions cannot take place and so many important ideas are consequently repressed. We sadly observe that the issue has been reduced to the level of polemics, grandstanding and shouting matches over the more vital meaning of art and what role artists play in contemporary times.

 

The CCP should protect its mandate, reclaim and maintain its autonomy. It must take the lead, not only in guarding artistic freedom but also in ensuring a safe haven where artists as public intellectuals have the freedom to exhibit. We educators will rally behind a cultural institution that will provide the venue and platform for artists, educators, policymakers, students of art and the “public” – by no means homogenous – to come together and raise and address issues in an atmosphere conducive to forming a community of critical audiences of art.

 

Re-open the exhibition!

Defend the freedom of expression!

Foreign artists support ‘blasphemous’ Cruz; CCP urged to reopen exhibit

source:http://www.interaksyon.org/article/10938/foreign-artists-support-blasphemous-cruz-ccp-urged-to-reopen-exhibit

 

MANILA – Artists from around the world are rallying behind beleaguered Filipino artist Mideo Cruz, whose controversial art installation on religious icons set off a firestorm in the Philippines that led the closure of an exhibit that featured his work.

On Saturday, faculty members of the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines in Diliman released a manifesto urging the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) to reopen “Kulo,” an exhibit of 32 works by different artists at the center’s main gallery.

The support for Cruz came in the form of statements either released publicly by fellow artists and art groups or emailed to Cruz, who shared these to InterAksyon.com. The artists are from the United States, Canada, Italy, Germany, Australia, Thailand, among others.

“As an artist, it is important to view expression with equality, to be willing to say what the art, as if a separate life, wishes us to say,” said Lewis Gesner, an artist in the US.

“The artist is responsible, even if it is not asked for, to express what the art wishes. 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,” Gesner said, adding that “art is important to the world and society, even when it goes against what opinions of others are, and what common knowledge is.”

Gesner described himself as “both an artist and a Christian.” While he “values highly the life of Christ and live my life with faith, which is very important to me, I see nothing positive in oppressing artistic expression, regardless of the content, or even, of the sincerity of it,” he said.

Vasan Sitthiket, an artist from Thailand, said he stands for freedom of expression and is in solidarity with Cruz. Sitthiket told Cruz that 10 years ago, Buddhists in his country accused and condemned him because of one of his work. “I hope the mad Catholics there have enough consciousness” about art, Sitthiket told Cruz.

Ioana Georgescu, an artist from Canada, wrote Cruz to express her wish “that all this will lead to a better ending or a new beginning.” He called Cruz, a highly regarded contemporary artist who received the CCP’s “13 Artists Award” in 2003, a “very talented and strong” person and that that “should not be forgotten in the controversy that often forgets the work and its true qualities.”

She advised Cruz to be “careful with the media circus.” Artists have partly blamed the media’s handling of the Cruz’s story for the controversy, singling out an ABS-CBN report that took Cruz’s work out of context and misled viewers.

Jürgen Fritz, an artist Cruz met in Germany during one of his many international exhibitions, told Cruz: “You created a piece of art, whose central core was to provoke such reactions from the Church and other institutions.  I think this was successful, so congratulation for that. I hope that what is coming now will be fruitful for you and the Filipino art movement.”

Maria Xtina Panis, an artist also from Canada, said “Mideo’s art is definitely doing what it should do – it is provoking critical discussion which is much needed in the Philippines. It’s just not fair if they are threatening your personal and physical safety.”

An artists’ group in Italy, the Polyartistic and Intermedial Association ARKA (H.C.E.), released a statement expressing “full solidarity” with Cruz. The group said it “considers very intrusive and inappropriate the current criticism by the Philippines’ conservative Catholic Church” of Cruz.

“Any form of censorship and obscurantism against art, today as in the past, must be regarded as an unlawful abuse of power and as a real ‘sin’ against the human spirit. The Catholic Church should be ashamed of their own crimes against humanity throughout its long history, rather than deal with contemporary art,” said the group’s
Massimo Zanasi  and Paola Cao.

A colleague from Canada named Mary Ann told Cruz: “It’s unbelievable how ignorant so many people are! They’ve ruined the face of Catholic as a religion. They’re supposed to be forgiving to all but they resort to death threats and childish/homophobic insults, and they choose to get suckered into all this hatred they don’t fully understand.”

Caesar Barona, an artist from Australia, said the closure of the exhibit “did more than just shut the doors of a gallery exhibiting Kulo – it surrendered the rights of artists and allowed censorship in.”

Barona said what happened to Cruz “affects our rights as a whole. Threats against artists are threats against the rest of us. We want discourse, not hysteria. You just don’t shut doors just because you feel offended — let’s talk about it.”

The Surreal Arts Club, a collective of 400 visual artists all over the world, also released a statement expressing “deep sympathy” toward Cruz and denounced what it called an “act of treachery.”

“What are should be and what are should be not are concerns that are in the entire dispersal of the artist,” the group said through Hector Pineda, its founder and administrator based in Mexico, and Gromyko Semper, a co-founder based in the Philippines. “And morality is never the concern because too much chain, too much prohibition blocks the imagination from realizing its own capacities to express into art,” the group said, adding, “We declare war on censorship!”

Charo Oquet, of Edge Zones Art Center in Miami, Florida, said she “fully supports Mideo Cruz and his exhibition.  We have invited him to exhibit in Miami as one of our international artist and believe he is an outstanding and accomplished artist which the Philippines should be very proud of to support him and hope that this incident with the Catholic Church will dissipate as his work is very serious and should be viewed.”

Meanwhile, faculty members of the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines in Diliman have urged the CCP to reopen “Kulo.”

“While there are contending interpretations of an image presented by art, the ethical course of action is to process the contentions and that is what art ensures: a process of communicative action. The closure of an exhibition only achieved the closure of democratic, informed and thoughtful engagement,” the art educators said in a statement.

Last week, Palayain ang Sining, a group of artists, announced that Cruz’s “Poleteismo” will be brought back to the CCP on Aug. 21, the supposed last day of “Kulo.” The group said they are now in negotiations with other venues that are interested to show “Kulo.”

Below is the rest of the educators’ statement:

“While freedom of expression and artistic license are not absolute and must be guided with reflexivity, accountability and responsibility on the part of makers of art, the freedom is fundamental, and inalienable. The work in question is art, and while it is a site of struggle over meanings and definitions, it is protected as expression in a free society. It may violate and offend community and common standards of morality, but it would be more productive for us to bring the discussion in a well-informed manner, to study and discuss our own responses and in the process, gain new knowledge and insights, and hone our visual competencies and literacy. Why for instance do images have the power to offend and provoke an excess of emotion and action?

“Now, without the artworks to look at and experience in actuality, and without benefit of proper framing and venue, such informed and engaged discussions cannot take place and so many important ideas are consequently repressed. We sadly observe that the issue has been reduced to the level of polemics, grandstanding and shouting matches over the more vital meaning of art and what role artists play in contemporary times.

“The CCP should protect its mandate, reclaim and maintain its autonomy. It must take the lead, not only in guarding artistic freedom but also in ensuring a safe haven where artists as public intellectuals have the freedom to exhibit. We educators will rally behind a cultural institution that will provide the venue and platform for artists, educators, policymakers, students of art and the “public” – by no means homogenous – to come together and raise and address issues in an atmosphere conducive to forming a community of critical audiences of art.

“Re-open the exhibition! Defend the freedom of expression!