Wednesday, August 17, 2011

CCP ‘Kulo’: Upholds artistic freedom and respects religious belief

Sitting (left) Senator Edgardo J.Angara. 

MANILA, August 18, 2011-In the midst of the controversial “Kulo” exhibit, Senator Edgardo J. Angara recommended that there is no need for a second public hearing as the dialogue adequately heard all stakeholders, advising those involve to uphold the artistic freedom and at the same time respect religious belief.

“We are now evaluating the testimonies and position papers of all resource persons regarding two aspects: The role of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) as a public institution, and the freedom of artistic expression and respect of religious icons.

The Senate committee on education, arts and culture committee on public information chaired by Angara and Senator Gregorio “Gringo Honasan II concluded that there is no need for a second public hearing in the senate.

“The recent hearing was meant a venue for sober and respectful discourse, and not for prosecution. It already shed light on this controversy and informed the public about the different stories behind the issue. No matter how controversial the issues, the dialogues were conducted in an atmosphere of respect, wit and insight,” Angara said.

“The committee believed that we have already pursued all lines of inquiry – legal, moral, artistic and administrative processes – even if the artist, Mideo Cruz, was not present himself, because it is not really the artist who is the subject of the inquiry,” Angara added.

The inquiry was in relation to a group exhibition held at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) that included the installation “Politeisimo” by artist Mideo Cruz which allegedly juxtaposed certain religious images in a sacrilegious way.

CCP Chair Emily A. Abrera and President Raul M. Sunico attended the hearing along with Board of Trustees Flor Rosario-Braid, Arsenio Lizaso, Isabel CaroWilson, Zenaida Tantoco, Cristina Turalba, Antonio Yap and Carolyn Espiritu.

Other stakeholders present were National Commission for Culture and the Arts chair Prof. Felipe M. de Leon; Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines; Vice Rector Pablo T. Tiong of the University of Sto. Tomas; former UP College of Law Dean Raul Pangalangan; Constitutional professor Atty. Florin Hilbay; National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose; National Artist for Visual Arts Abdulmari Imao; Prof. Cecilia dela Paz, chair of the UP Department of Art Studies; and Manolo Dayrit, chair of the Ang Kapatiran Party which have filed a complaint with the Ombudsman against CCP officials.

Angara said new legislation may not be necessary, but he urged the CCP to review, to rethink its administrative policies on selecting artworks and performances for public exhibition. F. Sionil Jose contended that Cruz’s work was not the best example of good art.

“As the best known public exhibition hall of the country, the public expects nothing less than the highest standards,” said Angara.
He also called for calm amid the growing tension, saying: “I would rather let the power of public opinion be the judge and measure of the performance of artists. I do not believe we have to impose sanctions and criminalize bad judgment of cultural administrators and artists.

“It is not fair to bring down an entire institution just because one artist's work appears offensive. The CCP’s purpose is larger than that, in the same way the freedom of expression transcends this single incident,” Angara added.

Prior to this, the senate inquiry was triggered by Senator  Jinggoy Estrada in his privilege speech denouncing the Kulo exhibit and asking CCP board members who approved the exhibit to resign for having allowed a publicly-funded institution to offend the sensibilities of the majority Catholics.

The senate committee issued subpoena to Mideo Cruz, whose installation art on religious images “Poleteismo” had sparked protests. (Jason de Asis)


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