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Artists defend controversial exhibition

Those who wish to have show shut down warned not to resort to criminal acts

Visitors view art works at an exhibition that the Church and Catholic groups have condemned (photo: Mideo Cruz) Visitors view art works at an exhibition that the Church and Catholic groups have condemned (photo: Mideo Cruz)
  • D'Jay Lazaro, Manila
  • Philippines
  • August 5, 2011
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A group of Filipino artists and cultural activists on Friday said in a statement that the Church’s condemnation of an art exhibit that shows images of Jesus mixed with symbols of pop culture “smacks of religious fascism.”

“We believe … that this demand to suppress the show smacks of the religious fascism of the friars … and is certainly unacceptable in the 21st century,” said the statement, issued by Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP).

CAP has rallied behind artist Mideo Cruz, whose work Poleteismo has become the subject of criticism by Catholic groups.

Artist Bienvenido Lumbera, head of CAP, suggested that the issue was a constitutional.

“We support the [Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP)]… for upholding freedom of expression as guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution,” he was quoted as saying in the statement.

Lay Catholics, led by the group Pro-Life Philippines, are threatening to sue the CCP, saying the “sacrilegious and blasphemous” art exhibition violates the center’s legal mandate.

The exhibition features images of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary adorned with objects not related to Christianity. One work includes a crucifix with a condom. Another features a Christ the King figurine with rabbit ears.

“The bishops and the lay leaders … are within their rights to speak … and they are free to admonish the Catholic faithful regarding what they find objectionable,” the artists’ group statement said.

Neil Doloricon, CAP secretary general, said criticism of the art work is “part of the artistic process and contributes to the growth of the artist.”

“We caution critics, however, not to resort to intimidation and defamation that threaten the artist’s freedom of expression,” he added.

Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz called the exhibition a “desecration” and advised the artists to see a psychiatrist.

The CCP on Friday appealed for respect following the vandalism of the exhibit on Thursday.

“Though art is representation and does not pretend to be anything more than art, we would like to remind anyone else who is considering violent and destructive acts against art, artists and art institutions that such acts are clearly criminal," the center said in the statement.
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