sabe ni lourd…
The issue regarding the Kulo Exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) has been wearing me off for more than a week now. I actually haven’t seen it nor do I expect to see it soon since it has already been closed by the institution. However, connections in the art world have afforded me with images of the said exhibition.
Personally, I wasn’t shocked to see the images. I have seen and even studied far “offensive” (as others have coined) works before.
I would like to assume that this controversy is indeed a conflict arising from “ways of seeing”. Art requires a certain way of looking. It requires a keen eye. It requires a specific process to be able to digest and understand visual stimuli. In art, you don’t see things as they are. Things are always beyond what they look like and what they are. Every element is a symbol which has a corresponding meaning which does not necessarily equate to its universal definition. Some icons are stripped off their natural essence so as to incorporate new ones as derived from the other elements around them. I believe this goes the exact way as Cruz’s. But even how deep or profound you might be looking at them, judgment however will always be anchored with personal biases and preferences. This is where some spectators have fall short.
From Paulo Alcazaren (Facebook):
The CCP represents different things to different people. Everyone has a point of view …and are entitled to have such views …the CCP will survive …its strength lies in its capacity to be a vehicle of tolerance for all viewpoints, a canvas for expression of all shades, a mirror of our often unacknowledged realities, a frame for change …and always for the better
13 August 2011
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!
OFFICIAL STATEMENT FROM THE CURATOR OF Kulô:It is upsetting that the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Board of Directors succumbed to the pressure by permanently closing the exhibit. Moreover, the manner by which various opinions were discussed, presented and circulated was frustrating if not disheartening.Since this issue began, I have expressed my position on this matter: the focus should be on the dialogue of art and nothing more. This is in fact a significant part of the show’s context, which is to re-evaluate past and present dialogues and how these ideas are revealed through the different artworks by 31 participating artists. In the process of presenting this exhibition to the public, the importance of the artist and their contribution to the art community, as well as to the society they live in, is made viable, and in relation to this the discourse between the artwork, the audience, and the artist were deemed an important part of the equation; however and whatever response it got.In order to further involve and inform the audience on the diverse approaches and contexts, the art pieces had accompanying statements. These served as jump-off points from which particular ideas can be deliberated and pondered on. I am respectful of artists and the artworks they produce. I also believe that as artists, we should assume responsibility for the works we create and the ideas we communicate. This allows a process of engagement where the artist and his audience could learn from each other. Despite the ongoing debate and controversy surrounding the work of Mideo Cruz, I maintain that:
We must protect the rights of all the participants in this exhibition.
We should not censor the artwork.
We should continue this dialogue and exchange of thoughts for a possible resolution. During the forum last August 5, I was hoping to redirect the focus on the concept and premise of “Kulô.” Unfortunately, it has gone beyond that. Resulting events show that things have gotten out of hand. The latest pronouncement of the CCP Board sets a bad precedent. Our right to freely express ourselves were curtailed. I am shocked and appalled by how our civil liberties were exploited to satiate the sensibilities of a raucous mob. In effect, majority of the participants’ ideas and artistic expressions were neglected and compromised by this decision. As the curator of the exhibit, a student of art, an art educator and a practicing multimedia artist, I deplore this repression.Much respect,
J. Pacena II
Curator/Participant of “Kulô”
(Multimedia Art Director and Art Educator)
Much respect, J. Pacena II +63 927 771 4818 www.blissmarket.wordpress.com
CULTURAL CENTER OF THE PHILIPPINES
Raul Sunico, President
Emily Abrera, Chairman
Due to numerous emails, text messages and other letters sent to various offficers of the CCP, and to the artists themselves, with an increasing number of threats to persons and property, the members of the Board of the Cultural Center of the Philippines have decided to close down the Main Gallery where the Kulo Exhibit is on display. This decision was made amidst controversy and deliberation by the Board as to what steps are necessary to avoid future similar incidents.
In the light of the foregoing developments and recent experience, the CCP management has reviewed its policies and are now taking steps to enable its officers and staff to make more informed decisions in the future.
The CCP shall continue to act as catalyst for free expression of Filipino artists. It thanks all those who have in one way or another, contributed to the dialogue about art, and the different ways it affects society today.
‘KULO’ opened on June 17 at the CCP Main Gallery, a compilation of work by 32 artists, meant to be part of the Center’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of Jose Rizal. Because all the participating artists had a common educational background, all having studied at the UST, they felt it fitting that the theme of Jose Rizal also reflect the heritage and culture represented by the 400-year old university.
Each artist participated with one installation. It was curated by J. Pacena II.
In keeping with previous practice to evaluate merits of art works on the basis of established parameters, the CCP Visual Arts Division, headed by Karen Ocampo Flores, approved the proposal to exhibit on the basis of an evaluation of their proposal as well as the background qualifications of the participating artists.
Publicity on the exhibit only happened after a major network covered it in the news. Particular focus had been put on one specific art work, “Politeismo.” By Mideo Cruz. Politeismo has been exhibited since 2002 in such venues as the Ateneo de Manila, UP Vargas Musueum and Kulay Diwa Galleries.
Threats to security became most alarming on Aug. 4 when Security reported that a couple had vandalized the art works and attempted to set fire to the exhibit but had been unsuccessful. Subsequent hate mails and threats to members of the Board intensified following this incident.
Following serious discussion, the Board members agreed on the common objective, to nurture freedom of artistic expression, while recognizing the responsibilities that go with it.