When the Artist Steps Way Out of the Boundaries

Banal na aso, santong kabayo; Wag mong lagyan ng tite sa mukha ang Panginoon ko!

Filipino contemporary artist Mideo M. Cruz is now at the midst of a fiery conflict against the Catholic Church after unveiling his latest work “Poleteismo”. “Poleteismo” is a part of KULO, a group exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines’ (CCP) main gallery. It was launched last June 17, which is in time for CCP’s celebration of Jose Rizal’s 150th birthday. The exhibit was supposed to last until August 21, 2011 but obviously, the show was cut short.

Cruz was bombarded with hate mails, emails, calls, and protests from religious sects and Christ believers. According to experts, this has got to be one of the biggest controversies in Philippine visual arts. It fueled disputes and arguments over freedom of expression between artists and the religious. In fact, it has fueled fire among artists as well.

On the other hand, it is not surprising how Cruz has taken all the criticisms calmly. He was even “naïve” when he said he didn’t expect this much violent reaction on “Poleteismo”.  In an interview with TV 5, Cruz said, “I never go out of my way to offend; but I do like to provoke debates and critical thinking. Art is a way of expressing one’s views about the world, culture and history, and this is what I do in my work. The audience is free to make their own conclusions and interpretations about the images I create, but I must confess I didn’t expect for anyone to react so violently against ‘Poleteismo.’ The worse that I would’ve expected is for no one to come to the CCP and see my work or those of my colleagues in this exhibition.”

Stepping outside the box and beyond

There is no question why many find Cruz’ artwork blasphemous and outright disrespectful. The Philippines is predominantly a Catholic Country. If for Cruz, he has just made a collage out of posters and wooden sculptures; for the majority, Cruz vandalized items that are considered sacred.

No doubt, Mideo M. Cruz has presented some strong points in “Poleteismo”. Hence, he has crossed a fine line between indifference and creativity and paying respect.

I personally do not know Mideo M. Cruz neither do I have any idea in his line of art. But I do believe that he played rather dirty.

Cruz said in an interview with TV5 that Poleteismo aims to “provoke people into thinking”. “I titled my work ‘Poleteismo’ which loosely translates into ‘many beliefs’ or ‘many deities.’ Throughout history, humanity has grown to create new gods and these are not always religious figures but concepts and objects. Some have taken to worshipping money; some see politicians as godsend. People create idols and these idols whether or not they’re deserving of idolatry or worship affect our lives and how we function and see the world.

Living in this country for 23 years, I have a clear grasp of how rotten this country’s system is. I do know how corrupt the church is. I am aware of how the Filipinos can easily ‘idolize’ or ‘worship’ some celebrity, athlete, or celebrity. And everyday, I meet people who claim themselves to be ‘Sarado Katoliko’, Christians, and Religious yet incessantly do wrong to other people.  It is crazy how Filipinos can be very arrogant of our deeply religious roots but do the exact opposite. In short, we are hypocrites.

Even without the Spanish friars, the church still has power over the Filipinos to date. The church has a say to almost every single issue the nation faces. And this is in spite the constitution saying that the church should be separated from the state.

Poleteismo portrayed all of these societal cancers in one blast. But what it lacked was taste.

Cruz had a great motive expressed in a wrong way. He simply went too far. It was hitting below the belt.

I am not a religious person. But I do know how to respect something that other people deeply believes in.

 

*Some photos on Poleteismo from Mideo’s Official FB page.

Poleteismo, Mideo Cruz Altar, Mideo Cruz

Relics, Mideo Cruz Poleteismo, Mideo Cruz

Maria Espie

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