Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Perspectives on ‘Kulo’ and ‘Polytheism’
Thoughts on art, media and the public
By: Rachel Mayo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
4:45 am Monday, August 15th, 2011

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.

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