Shutdown of the CCP ‘KULÔ’ exhibit proves the point Mideo Cruz makes in ‘Poleteismo’

Seems to me artist Mideo Cruz succeeded in proving the point he wanted to make in his collage Poleteismo which was exhibited along with other works in the main gallery of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. In Poleteismo, Cruz depicted through a collection of images and artifacts representing celebrities, religious icons, and public personalities how society had become all but fixated on worship of “idols” and deities of various forms and conceptual constructs. In a Bulatlat report, Cruz expresses his view that…

“[…] 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”

Collectively the images make a statement about Philippine society in particular, one that has inherited an addiction to the bread and circuses that its former colonial master, the United States, had made a significant chunk of its fortunes on top of.

“This is how I see the Filipino way of life — colorful, varied, full of conflicting beliefs and values. Can’t you just see these same images pasted on the walls of houses in the urban poor communities? And Filipino society, its racked with economic and political turmoil, and then there’s religion which frequently involves itself in the entire conglomeration of issues and developments,” he said.

Sure enough, if one does as Cruz advises — close your eyes after seeing the images, breathe and think– the walls begin to speak about the Filipino condition.

There’s the carton poster on the alphabet with “A” standing for “Apple” when apples are not grown in the Philippines and “J” is for Jeep and not for “jeepney.”

Hmmm, speaking of which…

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The Jeepney. I dare say Poleteismo in its being a hodgepodge of images of ego-candy mirrors the style template of that most renowned embodiment of Filipino culture — the Jeepney. In the same way that Cruz tries to convey how we as a people idolise artifacts, icons, and concepts that are foreign to our culture (fair-skinned celebrities, Starbucks coffee, artificial American twangs — the list is a long one), the Jeepney is an omnipresent reminder of the very Filipino condition Cruz cites. Like Poleteismo, many Jeepneys would be adorned with conflicting and ironic (though said irony may ironically fly over the pointed heads of the average Filipino) combinations of imagery. Basta driver sweet lover in big bold letters alluding to the less-than-pious virility of the vehicles’ captains would be plastered alongside images of Jesus Christ or the Madonna and Child in the most typical of these uniquely-Filipino vehicles.

Perhaps, then, the Philippine Taliban should go after every Jeepney driver that offends in much the same way as Poleteismo does?

That’s only a recommendation, Padres. Go off and launch your quaint crusades if you like. It is usually the easiest targets that get preyed upon by predators — and Mideo Cruz and his Poleteismo is one big and easy target, indeed. A real class act, these Padres certainly are. Meanwhile, jeepney drivers roam free in their Kings of the Road with impunity — virtual untouchables to politicians, both in Government and in the Church. Politicians, indeed, are all the same whether they are wearing robes or business suits.

One thing that, as usual, escapes the limited sensibilities of these religious zealots is how their “offense” on this matter stems from the alleged desecration of their precious religious icons and the cherished likenesses of their revered deities. But then if they truly believe in the greatness of their gods, wouldn’t it be reasonable to think that they’d see the laughably ridiculous notion of assuming that their great and “infinite” gods would be so small-minded as to themselves be offended by the desecration of such earthly and mortal artifacts?

In this instance, idolatry does indeed stand out as the cornerstone concept of this whole circus. In exhibiting such bemusing outrage, these men-in-robes and their minions in the “laity” have exposed the primitive idolatry that has for so long persisted at the core of Filipino religious life.

Mideo Cruz, in the effect his work Poleteismo has so far had in our intellectually bankrupt society, has proven his point.

“Let the person among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus Christ (John 8:7)

Get Real Philippines!

35 Replies to “Shutdown of the CCP ‘KULÔ’ exhibit proves the point Mideo Cruz makes in ‘Poleteismo’”

  1. You have me going in circles here.

    I agree that Filipino Catholics have a perplexing and inconsistent sense of judgment, overlooking the crass marketing slogans on Jeepneys, arguing against compassion for women (the HR and divorce bills are both compassionate instruments) whilst obsessing over Mary, blessing new homes, a rite of superstition that I know for a fact does not work (at least it did not keep the NPA and ghosts out of my home in Mindanao), and being especially faithful at big holidays, as if God paid more attention to worshipers on those dates.

    But I take issue with the notion that religious zealots should expect their gods to understand this art exhibit because it is an expression of mortal (flawed) man.

    I think the purpose of most religious worship is to lead us sinful creatures toward a higher path. Certainly, that is the preaching of Christ, who was very much interested in mortal man’s shenanigans. So if we expect to strive for a higher path, one of compassion and sensitivity and grace, it is natural that we would object to an unnecessarily blatant insult to the goodness of our efforts.

    I can’t help but put the artist into the same genre as the insensitive, macho-based Filipino who pisses everywhere, tosses trash everywhere, abuses the neighbor in every way imaginable, hogs the highway, and finds pride in betting on killer chickens. Not high on the compassion-o-meter. Very high on the Ego-o-meter.

    1. I fail to understand though why an all-powerful, ominipotent and infinite God would be so concerned about how much or how little he is worshipped — or mocked — by the sentient children of a burst of accidental carbon-based order springing on the surface of a little pale blue dot orbiting a small hydrogen fusion powered ball of energy barely discernible from the edge of one of a billion plus galaxies in what could be an infinite number of universes within a vast multiverse.

  2. “Collectively the images make a statement about Philippine society in particular, one that has inherited an addiction to the bread and circuses that its former colonial master, the United States, had made a significant chunk of its fortunes on top of.”


    We stick too much to anything American in origin for too long, when in fact, there are other alternatives that can help us uplift our lives.

  3. Freedom of expression has its limits. It cannot, for example, justify public expression of bigotry, prejudice, abuse and, yes, blasphemy.

    Blasphemy is included because what it really is is disrespect for the beliefs of other people. And this doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that Catholicism is the majority religion in this country. Minority religions deserve just as much respect.

    ‘Artists’ are citizens just like every other citizen. They do not have special privileges when it comes to the arena of freedom of expression. Just like everyone else, they ought to respect the beliefs of their fellow citizens. This is what makes for a decent and civilzed society where we coexist and respect one another.

    And, by the way, perhaps it’s time to reexamine just who is entitled to be called ‘artist’. In the time of Michelangelo, not every fellow who wielded a brush was automatically an artist. S/he might be a sculptor, painter, writer, illustrator–and they let posterity decide. Maybe ‘artist’ should be a status to aspire for, but not necessarily achieved by churning out some paltry works that nobody will even want to look at in a few weeks, days, even minutes.

  4. If the guy’s that good, he could’ve done something different — something that could depict the same meaning without the need to draw the attention.

    1. that is his kind of art eh…

      and besides if he wanted something that will not draw attention, he might as well just stayed in bed and forget about being an artist…

  5. To be honest, sige, sabihin nating you’ve proven your point. (Sabihin lang natin)

    Being the smart boy that you are, you know pretty well that bad publicity is one of the cheapest (and easiest) ways to fame. After ng ginawa mo, alam kong naghahanap ka lang ng maididikit sa pangalan mo.

    Si Mideo — yung ano.

    Or maybe, it’d just be a good part sa autobiography mo, na sasabihin mo sa mga apo mo na you’ve proven your point and you became famous for awhile — (na tingin ko, yun ang gusto mo paniwalaan)

    The whole thing wasn’t all about your freedom of expression. Kung artist ka nga, I know you’d use your creative mind and your strong will and drive to plot the whole thing out, just to become famous.

  6. I think Mideo’s work was spot on: putting a dick on Jesus’ head is exactly art reflecting actual reality.

    Every word coming out of our poor sex-starved bishops is always about sex-sex-sex. Who you can do it to, what style, what sex tools, what time of the month…

    and if they aren’t dictating what people should do in their own bedrooms, its another sex scandal, pedophilia case, or what not.

    When did Jesus’ religion suddenly become all about sex-sex-sex?

  7. We humanize God…this is the point of contention. We build images of him, like ourselves…and worship that image. If anybody “desecrates” that image, that is our object of worship…we are offended and are outraged.
    Think back in the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs. There were several Gods, in different statues and images. Let us take for example the image of the god: RA or Anubis. If you’d put horns on their heads, or penises, between their legs. The rulers would had , had you executed.
    Today, if you get their images or statues; do the same desecration; nobody will even mind it. Some may even buy the statues, to decorate their living room.
    I think the controversy, is just overblown…

    1. Indeed that is what religious zealotry does – humanise what are supposedly beings that are far beyond the likeness or comprehension of human beings. So to assume that such beings – such “gods” – are subject to human failings such as the very human inclination to find offense in such trivial things as a likeness of a penis stuck to an ASSUMED representation of said god is, ironically, the height of arrogance.

  8. mideo cruz is entitled to his own, self-made abomination but i question his “right” to foist it on, and assail, the sensibilities of other citizens with it. as far as i’m concerned he could decorate his own bathroom with this trash and feast his hungry eyes on it every moment of each day, for all i care. i question, too, ccp’s decision to allow itself, a facility built with public money, be used as a vehicle to promote such offensive profanity.

    1. All a matter of *opinion* of course. One man’s art is another man’s eyesore. If bad taste was a crime, then te police should go out and roundup jeepney designers and jolog fashionistas tomorrow and throw them all in jail.

  9. As I have commented before in this blog:

    “It follows also that if somebody put up the photoshopped photo of Mideo Cruz and his mother (or his young kid) graphically naked in the internet while the latter is sucking and licking his penis can be considered as his arts. A politically correct arts.”

    Title it with “Mideo Cruz Mother’s Wisdom”.

    I’m not encouraging anybody to publish that in the internet but I’ll welcome it with open arms. I might do if myself just to prove a point. His definition of his art is to put the “shock” element, then, let’s have it.

    When is the time that art should have something to do with beauty. In which the only issue for those whose kind of art is not universally appreciated is “beauty is to the eyes of the beholder”.

    Now, it’s obscenity is to the eyes of the beholder. Expressing one’s self in any form is more of presenting it as an art than judging the person who is expressing his/her thought. The politically correct art.

    Never mind if it’s offending to people who are not seeing it your way. It’s your art, an expression.

    Never mind for not being considered as a real artist. It’s your art, an expression.

    In an interview according to Mideo Cruz:

    “Q: Apparently Catholic imagery has lost it spiritual power over you, reducing it to mere objects of idolatry. When did this spiritual transformation happen to you? Can you describe your current religious views?

    Cruz: I was raised as a Catholic, part of the 80% Catholics in the country. I grew up believing in Sta. Claus like everyone else. But as you grow up you gain more knowledge about the world you live in. You learn about things that separate myth from reality.”

    Read more of that interview in this link:

  10. Benigs,

    The reactions against Mideo’s installation wasn’t really surprising at all.

    I’ve been told that it had been going around Catholic schools without so much of a whimper from the Deans, principals, teachers, and students.

    I think it was even shown at the lobby of some building in Ateneo de Manila.

    Apart from the religious images, there were also lots of images of politicians – chavit, imelda, fernando poe junior.

    So, sure, Mideo’s art was intended to be a lightning rod for reaction.

    But is it good art at all or is it just kitsch and its only value is that it is controversial?

    How would Mideo’s art be assessed or appraised in say 20 years or 50 years? Where would its place be in the world of art?

    Beyond that, I think the point he wanted to make isn’t a new one. Filipinos are in-love with their symbols perhaps just as much as any other country’s peoples. There’s the US and their Star Spangled Banner, there’s Japan and their Emperor, there’s UK and their Royalty (Prince Charles looks like a horse), etcetera…

    Moreover, the idea of using religious images out of its context has been done before… I was reminded of the Christ Pissing in a Chalice at the Guggenheim, Madonna’s use of crucifixes, depictions of Mohammed and Allah, Joey De Leon’s smiling Christ, Osama Bin Laden as Jesus Christ, Mother Mary in a Burkah…

    If at all, Mideo’s installation was a poor execution of a decades old concept. It didn’t even shock me, make me anxious, or want to debate — seriously debate, its merits.

    Anyway, reactions to Mideo’s Installation being booted from the CCP because of the Catholic furor is just like Christopher Lao screaming that he wasn’t warned that the flood on Mother Ignacia Street was so high it would make his car float.

    Pffff…. Come on. Needling the Catholic Church and Politicians is an old trick that’ll get you publicity.

    As an artist, hmmm… I think controversy overshadowed Mideo’s scheme.

    1. You’re right. The “debate” around Mideo’s art — or any art for that matter — should have been limited to whether said art is good art or bad art (which includes how original or unoriginal it is). Of course that concept of limiting “debate” to a specific aspect of an issue is not something easily compartmentalised by the Filipino mind. Filipinos have a talent for muddling an issue across a whole spectrum of irrelevant aspects interwoven into their individual perspectives which is evidently limited by the wretchedness of the average Filipino’s quality of life.

      Religion is one of those aspects that is used by the average wretch as his/her primary crutch to lean on as he/she struggles with making sense of the complexity of the REAL WORLD — a rouitine exercise that requires a lot of work and a lot of brains to sort out (which is why most of us spend much of the first 20 years of our lives getting an education). The root (as you will have probably gathered by now) is a lack of brains and a lack of education to deal with a complex modern world. Included in this complex and modern world is a BROAD range of views. Included in this broad range of views is Mideo Cruz’s view of the world.

      Simply put, Da Pinoy’s effort to DEAL with that view constitutes an Epic Fail.

      By the way, I’ve got yet another article on the subject that you might want to check out here. 😉

  11. Just a small thought.

    If NASA were to explore other celestial bodies and found a godly figure with a penis sticking out face.

    I wonder, how would we interpret it? 😀

    1. i guess the reason why he didn’t do it is because he did not see islam as a cause of why the society is what is right now… he doesn’t see the muslims trying to make themselves the center of all the issues in this country… which happens to be the hobby of the RC church

  12. dapat high school pa lang may critical thinking na subject na. imbis na critical thinking, puru religion ang tinuturo sa mga paaralan ng pilipinas. kaya ayan. sinabi lang ng pari na blasphemous naniwala agad mga kordero nya. sugod mga kawal! puksain ang may gawa neto! kahit hindi ito iniutos ng hesukristo, ganito gawin natin! kasi natatapakan ang dangal natin at mas mahalaga ito kaysa sa hiling ng anak ng dios na si hesukristo! balewalain ang kanyang sinabi na “turn the other cheek”! sundin natin kung anong gusto nating gawin!

  13. The night Jesus was arrested apostle Peter drew his sword and cut the ear of one soldiers who arrested his Master. Jesus rebuked Peter and healed the soldier. If Mideo’s critics represent Peter (the defender of Jesus) and Mideo is the soldier, what do you think Jesus would do during this time? Does blaspheming Jesus really hurt Him, of course not. What hurts Him is what the blasphemer did and what His defenders might do on behalf of Him. Now who really needs defending? Jesus? No, He can always defend Himself.

  14. It doesn’t take sophistication to conclude that Medio’s exhibit is basura. PAra syang gumawa ng cake na gawa sa patay na daga then hinampas sa mukha ng publiko then tatawagin nya tong freedom of expression. My ass! He is not even an artist. He is a creature of a lower kind feasting on trash. Garbage in garbeage out. Ano dapat gawin sa garbage dapat itapon.

    1. i could say the same about richard gutierrez’s acting (but then the bigger idiots would have to be the writers and directors whoo get him to act the way he does). now THAT is garbage.

      i digress, but it is related, remotely.

  15. Mr. Cruz got what he wanted. He became famous. What he created was art, but art has many genres, it’s like music. I compare his artwork to a death metal song, no rhythm just loud drums, heavy guitar riffs and the vocalist shouting like when his throat is about explode.

    When his work was displayed at CCP, it’s like playing death metal song on a jazz radio station.

    1. I agree with you.
      In the other hand; I would love to see Santa Claus dress up with a Pink velvet shirt, embroider in big white letters saying: “I’m Ghandia”, your host for tonight show. Assuming he is already wearing a tight mini leather skirt.

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