From a burst of Twitter exchanges Yours Truly (@benign0 on Twitter) had in the last 24 hours with Arnel Endrinal (@LeadPhilippines on Twitter), top political radio jock on his radio show Sentro ng Katotohanan which airs 8.30-9.30pm Tuesdays and Thursdays on DWBL 1242 KHz (AM Band, Philippines), I’ve recently acquired even more insight on the sort of logic some Catholics apply in coming to terms with the creative license some artists apply to their work.
The root of contention is in the way Arnel made an assertion that Catholics equate not just Mideo’s controversial work Poleteismo but the entire ‘Kulo‘ exhibit within which Cruz’s works were showcased along with other artists’ works, to pornography…
To Catholics, the Kulo exhibits is equal to pornography. Will the [Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP)] also show pornography because there could be art there somewhere?
In many countries, pornography is legal. In the Philippines, I am not quite sure whether it is or it isn’t. Who cares, anyway? All I know is that porn is legal in practice in the Philippines regardless of what the letter of the law stipulates. As such, film and literature that is fronted by a thin veil of “artistry” routinely passes off as material that can be exhibited to the Philippine public (including its Catholic majority, presumably).
So let’s start with a clear understanding of what porn is…
Pornography is content made available for consumption with an intent to titillate its consumers.
Porn in the Philippines is an interesting case study. It is a reality that everyone pretends is not there. Porn is the more entertaining evil twin of religion, considering that religion upholds the existence of things that are not there by convincing its followers to pretend these are real.
This bizarre relationship Filipinos have with their multi-million dollar domestic porn industry is a fascinating one. In my book, I cite some observations made by eminent anthropologist Michael Tan on the subject that pretty much sums up the national regard for sexually-explicit content:
In her article â€œBetween Sensationalism and Censureâ€ (Philippine Journalism Review, April 2002, pages 35-37), Diana Mendoza observed how the bizarreness of Filipinosâ€™ regard for sexuality is reflected in Philippine cinema. Her observations are gleaned from among others, comments made by sociology professor Michael Tan of the University of the Philippines in the Sixth International congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific held in Melbourne, Australia from the 5th to the 10th October 2001:
Commenting if the Philippines could be at the forefront of education on sex and sexuality Tan said no, because “media have very sensational coverage but they still have this patina of moralism which is strange.” He said this brims over to the film industry that churns out movies carrying the “crime and punishment” theme — for instance, movies with pots of adultery that run steamy sex scenes but which towards the end, mandate that the adulterer, who is always the female, gets shot or imprisoned.
“With these endings, movies become a morality play after two hours of titillation,” he said.
Tan said Filipino movies also carry the “crime and redemption” theme, in which a sex worker eventually realizes there is a better life outside prostitution, but only after the audience [have] been treated to several sexual episodes.
So coming back to the issue of whether or not Poleteismo or, for that matter, the entire Kulo exhibit can be considered to be porn, the key question to answer is this:
Did Mideo Cruz have an intent to titillate when he created Poleteismo?
Strangely, Arnel backtracked on his original assertion in a subsequent tweet…
@benign0 because nobody can prove intent until one admits it or unless you can read minds. And oh, btw, I didnt say it IS pornography.
…which interestingly enough leaves us with what seems to be the real concern Arnel had about this whole debacle…
Is art more important than what Catholics would feel?
Perhaps that question should have been asked back in 1986 when the “Our Lady of Edsa” (or whatever the heck that building is called) was erected as a monument to the 1986 Edsa “Revolution” that transpired in that wretched thoroughfare, but with a slight twist: Is art — and the politics it might represent — more important than what Muslims would feel? Last I heard, there were Muslim Filipinos in Edsa too.
If you are a non-Catholic Filipino, what do you think should be the answer to this question?
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