Poleteismo: Art in sacrilege
Catholics must not be too quick to judge the artist without sufficient information. But he also said artists must consider their audience.
There may be some works of art which… would not be in harmony with the mentality and the culture of a certain group of people, of a certain religion. I think artists and those who put on such exhibits should be very, very sensitive to that. – Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez
The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) is currently hosting an exhibit of works of Thomasian visual artists led by Midea Cruz called “Poleteismo”.
Featuring a crucifix with a glowing and movable penis, Christ the King with bunny ears and clown nose, gothic/emo Jesus crying with black tears; Poleteismo (“polytheism”) is an exhibit about the role of idolatry in the society.
Unfortunately, they chose Catholicism as the central theme of this exhibit and displayed its highly venerated images with unusual “distortions”.
Being in a community where people were raised not to defile religious artifacts in any manner, the exhibit is indeed disturbing, if not reviling.
This exhibit brought a revived (not new) debate between art and blasphemy, between open-mindedness and sensitivity to devotion, between right to self-expression and the responsible exercise of such right, between respect for one’s faith and equal respect for another’s non-belief.
The exhibit also includes images and posters of various political candidates, Obama, cartoon characters, and famous brands, which, I think, fit the idea of idolatry.
Don’t judge the artist
Art has never been defined by anyone, even by artists, and I don’t think it will ever be nor should it be. Like beauty, art is in the eyes of the beholder.
For me, art is what the beholder sees as his reality. Let me emphasize, not “the” reality, but “his” reality. But let’s not go deeper into what reality is.
My point is, art is not to be interpreted in one way. In an exhibit, you will not find any detailed description of what a painting or a sculpture is about. You will not find what the artist was feeling or going through when he created that piece of art.
Instead, a painting, a sculpture, or a collage is presented to you and you are free to explain what they are about and what they are supposed to convey.
Bishop Iñiguez was right in saying that it is improper to judge without the necessary information. We should not judge an artist and his craft if we don’t understand art in the first place.
Emotions in art
According to Cruz, he received hate mails and death threats following the news of his exhibit.
I really find this incredible. Nonetheless, an art exhibit is not successful if it does not stir up any emotion and provoke any thought, whether positive or negative. What more if the artist received death threats?
In fairness to the pious
I’m sure, those who support Cruz’ art exhibit and those who are anti-Catholic/priests/bishops accuse these church leaders and devotees of hypocrisy – professing belief in and obedience to a god, yet acting in an ungodly manner.
Now, art aficionados, don’t go into that kind of argument. Like art, faith is personal. But unlike art, faith goes beyond what can be seen or felt. Faith transcends humanity. Insulting one’s faith is like spitting on his face twice.
Catholics look up to saints and glorify Jesus. They don’t create images of these people to be subjected to any form of ridicule.
You may say that Poleteismo is not a form of ridicule. It wasn’t the intention of the artists. It may be true, because it’s art.
It was just unfortunate of the Catholics that other religions in the Philippines didn’t have icons and images.