Poleteismo: Art in sacrilege

Not hypocrite.

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”.

Photo from bworldonline.com

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”.

Photo from g1.globo.com

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.


Posted on August 4, 2011, in WTF and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.

  1. This is an abuse of freedom of expression!!!! I am an artist also and a filmmaker, even took it in a higher degree coupled with theology and philosophy cross-courses!!! Don’t tell me that freedom of expression in art is a canon. Excuse me! Freedom of expression came to existence not until 18th-20th century modernism, during the industrial age and its transition was the renaissance. But prior to that, art is treated as a world view! It was too sacred to the point that no artworks comes with a signature of the artist as an act of humility and reverence for the Great One, the Divine Artist – GOD! Check your art history prior to 15th century. If we go back further, base on archeological and anthropological studies, art begun on “cave paintings” from some 31,000 years ago discovered in 1969 on the rock face in a cave near Twyfelfontein in Namibia or the Minoan Crete bull treated a “sacred” animal by the primordial people. Again we are talking about “sacred” here in this time of history prior to the Christian faith or the coming of the “Messiah” in about 4-8A.D. Ancient people’s belief in art is a reflection of nature and the philosophical belief is “transcendent” or “metaphysics” (meaning behind the physical phenomena or the supernatural), and that’s what the classical Greek teachings are all about to parallel cross-geographic setting.

    To Eastern setting? What do we have in ancient Egypt? in China? Mexico? India? Messopotamia?.. – Pyramids! Sacred sites surrounded by countless artworks that serves also as literature (the message the culture, politics, imperical state etc..of the people)! Everything is Diviine! There is no divinity for Art for artsake alone when fascism came to place as a political, religious and economic counterpart! Art for Artsake if we are not ignorant in its roots is an expression of a postmodern man who’s philosophical, political and biological framework are rooted in Darwinism, Freud and Marxism. Who have no GOD but man alone and the only meaning of live is survival of the weak and the strong.

    I just wonder, if time summons Mateo and the rest of his supporters the so called “Art for Artsake” and “Art as freedom of expression” I hope on your burials all those images you supported will be the same images (or worst) that will stay with you through your 3 day wake and carry you through when you kiss the ground. I can already see that your coffins are PENIS-like!!!

  2. I agree with you! The reason why “Yeshua” needed to come down from being GOD to the person of man is to save mankind from ignorance! Truly, the ocean of the same scenario why “Yeshua” need to be put to death is unfolding right in our very eyes…. IGNORANCE is a BLISS!!! People who are trying to be philosophical ends up ignorant after all!
    “Oh! my GOD, my precious and sacred GOD! Please show justice to these people so they will fear you, worship you, venerate you instead of mocking your face and your entire Spirit!”

  3. Oh my GOD! my Dearest! Send Tsunami again in the coast of CCP! Send pestilence to the people of modern Egypt! Send fire to the free society of Sodom and Gomorrah!!!!

  4. that artist must be retarded

  5. 1. I compare the exhibit with sex. It’s an art too. Only private. Its something you wouldn’t expose to public.

    2. I wanna dare people to do the same art with the picture of our President and/or pictures of their children and loved ones.

  6. Easy guys. 🙂

    @KC – I won’t argue with you on the first. But I do get your point.

    On your second statement, I totally agree. Having religious images is just like having a photo of your mom or your dad or whoever you look up to. We don’t worship them, but we give the highest respect we could. We don’t draw horns on their foreheads or fangs on their teeth and call it art and show them with pride to our friends.

    I would like to assume that Mideo’s purpose was to show the human tendency to adore anyone and anything we like. He wanted to show that idolatry has “dirtied” the Catholic faith, which should not be since the Catholic dogma don’t tell its faithful to worship the images. But that was just a hopeful guess.

    If Mideo’s purpose was merely to ridicule the Catholic faith, then F him. Try doing that to Islam or Iglesia ni Cristo.

    BTW, I’m moderating the comments in this post. Due to the number of extreme reactions, I decided to filter the comments. No need to send your comments several times. Be assured that I get all of them and I read them. But I will not post highly defamatory comments. It’s ok to add words of disgust, but please add some content to your comments. Thanks you. 🙂

  7. Geek Teacher Onizuka

    If Mideo Cruz was attempting to stir the crowd through a cheap Dadaist postmodern installation, he succeeded. although not in as much as his message is transcended. Art, my friends, is in fact a form of communication. The reason an artist create is to make his statement known. Though if what it seems that no one appreciates his art here, if there are any, then does this mean his “genius” is not understood? Or would we rather say that his art is merely “his art”?

    Understand this before glossing over my statement. His use of parallelism between religious and pop-cultural icons is actually off. First of all, religious icons are representations of actual Gods, not icons in themselves. This can be pointed out if you will use Roland Barthes’ “Semiotics”. Second, pop-cultural icons, as far as my years of research in pop literature goes, are mere imitations of actual heroes as they represent ordinary if not extraordinary mortal heroes. And I mean mortal since they all emanate from epic-mythological lore. Gods themselves are, true, from myths, but their existence are aimed for the perfection of human existence, only disturbed by the intervention of human behavior (e.g. Greek myths) resulting to their eventual downfall.

    But you must understand that the background of Jesus Christ differs from the Greek myths as He, according to myths, submitted Himself to human existence, lived among us, and transmigrated Himself back to God. And so, it is impossible to point the compatibility of a fakestyle (taking from Marshal Fishwick theory on pop culture) with that of the folkstyle consideration of the Hero-God Icon. Pop cultural icons are icons posted as meanings in themselves and their meanings are marked by human intervention.

    Now, if by argument that God is a manifestation of human intervention then that means there is no God. God is created as mere images whose icons are created solely for themselves and not as representations. And if that is so, then I can therefore conclude that Mideo Cruz is NOT an ANTI-CHRIST but an ATHEIST.

  8. Nikkolai Zlamancka

    I, hereby, condemn that art and the act to the highest degree possible. Notice, “art and act,” not the person. After all, God died for all, both the good and bad, the just and the unjust, the Christian and the unchristian, the Christ-like and devil-like. Notice too, the condemnation is “to the highest degree possible.” The reason is simple: The image that the artist has destroyed, maligned and desecrated is the image of the OMNIPOTENT, OMNISCIENT, ABSOLUTE, HIGHEST, ALL-POWERFUL GOD. The art and the act deserve the series of God’s woes and the highest human condemnation. “Lord, forgive him for he does not really know what he is doing.”

  9. News Update

    CCP closes ‘blasphemous’ art exhibit
    Posted at 08/09/2011 10:09 AM | Updated as of 08/09/2011 10:09 AM

    MANILA, Philippines – The Cultural Center of the Philippines on Tuesday closed up its visual arts section, including a controversial exhibit showing defaced religious icons, due to security reasons.

    A radio dzMM report said Karen Flores, head of the CCP visual arts section, said all exhibits inside the center have been closed to the public as a preventive measure. The advisory came less than a week after several art pieces in the controversial “Kulo” exhibit was vandalized.

    Members of the CCP Board are set to issue an official statement about the exhibit later Tuesday.

    CCP officials have come under fire for exhibiting the controversial artwork of artist Mideo Cruz, which showed religious symbols such as crucifixes and pictures of Jesus Christ defaced with phallic symbols.

    Catholic groups have condemned the exhibit for being blasphemous and threatened to sue the CCP Board for allowing the exhibition. CCP chairperson Emily Abrera, however, stood by the legitimacy of the exhibit, saying that it promotes intelligent debate.

    Malacañang has refused to comment on the exhibit, saying that the CCP decided on the matter independent of the Palace.

    “I think we should not be involved in a matter that is purely a decision made by CCP and this is about art,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said. With a report from Noel Alamar, radio dzMM

  10. freedom of expression…. be responsible in using such freedom..

  11. don’t see anything artsy in his piece.

    • @shapine Yes you wont see any…may be because you’re not of the same line of thinking and may be level.

      “Idolatry” what’s wrong in these word if its true in a society or a Religion, what would you expect Catholicism came from pagan belief? “Denial is usual human response.”

      Mideo Cruz is like a priest in Ireland abusing a child in an orphanage, an expression of a pedophile priest. Difference is the the priest is sick and Cruz is also sick, but only for now.

  12. poor mideo cruz…. if only he use the proper way of freedom of expression he would be recognize right hay….

  13. If anything, God uses Cruz’s work to stir all of us (Catholics, Muslims, Christians, etc…) to take a stand. In the end, God is the ultimate judge. Who are we to know what another is really going through, right? Let us all grow together — wheat and weeds. For those who choose to be wheat remain wheat. For those who choose to be a weed, well– I hope you will turn eventually. 🙂

  14. Freedom of expression yeah right.
    But all things have there own limitations.
    It is correct that it’s a freedom of expression.
    But he is out of his own limitation.
    Freedom of expression is expressing themselves in a way no one is abused.
    epic fail.

  15. Btw, as a Catholic Christian, my stand is this: I agree that censorship to artists isn’t fair. But certain artists, like Cruz, are just begging for it. An awesome professor has said, “artists must grasp broad cultural developments, but should make art naturally rather than attempt to make overly literal responses.”

  16. You may want to view a related post I just published: Poleteismo: In the spirit of fairness

  17. Come on! This is no difference with a priest in Ireland abusing a child in an orphanage and Medio Cruz’s expression on “Idolatry” in our society, what’s wrong in these word if its true in a society or a Religion. “Denial is usual human response.”

    Any comment for the priest’s necrophiliac expression?

  18. The artist is lucky it wasn’t the people of other religion he invoked wrath from.
    Other religion wherein there might be aggression or witchcraft or voodoo dolls or strange rituals for vengeance.
    He wouldn’t be receiving death threats in appreciation of his art.
    He’d receive a lot more than that, I assure you.

  19. what a freedom!!! it doesn’t respect the image of god!!!

  20. Maybe he went overboard. But I don’t think that he should get the treatment his getting right now. I believe that they should also respect his human rights and the media should stop sensationalizing the issue.

  21. I heard over the radio that this brouhaha will make the artist famous elsewhere…In my quest to see what the fuzz was about I ‘googled’ for pictures of this installation and it led me to this blog. Poleteismo seems garish and cheap to me…I often associated Art with the word beauty in some form or the other…This piece is indeed an expression…but is it really art?

    • Onjon, is that you? Hehe..

      Anyway, like I said, art has never been objectively defined by anyone – what constitutes art, how art can be distinguished from random scribbles, and even whether scribbles may be considered as art.

      Art is what the beholder sees is art. If you think Poleteismo isn’t art, then it’s not art. 🙂

  22. blasphemy is always a bad thing, but

    “But he also said artists must consider their audience. ”

    is a ball-and-chain for an artist

    an artist who chooses to please an audience isn’t any better than a stripper or a politician or an underdog Chinese businessman

    a pure artist is a scientist

    conservatism delays advancement and understanding

    whether or not he was trying to be “hip” and “not mainstream”, give this guy a thumbs up for being so daring

  1. Pingback: Art and the Catholic Church: They go way back | The Philippine Art Mouse

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