Poleteismo: art in the emperor’s new clothes

I admit, I never went to see the Kulo “art” exhibit at the CCP. I only saw two images on the Internet: the one where a phallus is stuck on the face of an image of Jesus; and the other where Jesus’ eyes seemed to me like they were bleeding. The former was shocking enough for me to decide not to see the exhibit at all.

Mideo Cruz’s “Poleteismo” is, for me, downright irresponsible, insensitive and too atrocious to be considered a piece of art. Therefore, not worth my time. Too bad it affected my (lost) interest in seeing the rest of the exhibit.

The intent, to be fair, is noble: to shock the beholder and contemplate on how Philippine society is raping the very same faith that it desperately holds on to in times of need. But it stops there. The message got lost in the overzealousness of the artist. He became the swindling weaver who fabricated the invisible clothes.

What was intended to be a magnificent contemporary opus divided its intended audience. On one side, we have some artists who found the collage subconsciously orgasmic. They got penetrated deeply by what they perceive as the message. Not one among them dared to say that it was abhorrent. They are, after all, artists who can see what the ordinary can’t.

And then there are the ordinary folks who petulantly cried, “there are no clothes!” So some of them thrashed and vandalized the exhibit. Their purported violent reaction got more people realizing the invisibility of creativity in the artworks.

For this alone, I believe the original intent failed — miserably. It didn’t get the kind of reaction it had wanted to elicit from this sinful society. Yes, it had us all talking, but do we all understand it? The youth who went to the exhibit, silently went about the whole scene without raising hell about what they were seeing. This silence is being interpreted as a sign of acceptance more than confusion. Personally, it scares me. The mind of the youth will always be a mystery, especially in misery, which the exhibit portrayed.

The artists and their supporters say the vandal/s showed irrational behavior with the way he/she/they reacted to their art. Well, that’s freedom of expression for you. Tit for tat. They provoked it, so they should be responsible enough to admit that these pieces of art might in fact create chaos in society.

I do not claim to be a kindred spirit of national artist Francisco Sionil Jose, but I do share his view about what art should be. I would rather be educated about art by someone like him, than listen to those who are at least 40 years behind in terms of learned and innate creativity. Yes, he may have dissenting opinion about the exhibit against fellow national artist Bienvenido Lumbera, but I find Jose’s words more sensible. He was gutsy enough to tell it like it is. The artworks were UGLY. He didn’t act like a brat, brandishing freedom of expression like it was conceptualized for artists alone.

The majority has spoken, and artists must be open enough to admit that their intended message wasn’t clear. The recipient simply didn’t like it, period. The bigger brat prevails.

So the young artists should go back and learn some more. Master their craft. Try it out underground initially before going out in public. If it’s that poignant, it will find its way through to the hearts and minds of the masses. Maybe next time, their works can move people to act in “favorable” ways just the way they want it.

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