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Controversies between Art & Religion: The "Kulo" Exhibit - Art Installation of Mideo Cruz highlighting Catholicism

Religion jives with art. Back in medieval times, art and religion exist side by side. It ranges from hand paintings, sculptures, portraits and sketches of holy characters that existed long before the compilation of the Bible came into print.

People cling to art in order to interpret what transpired in biblical times. Art influence is great that even this time, religion cannot exist independently because art always tackle the subject.

Just of late, an art installation regarding Catholicism ignited groups of Catholic believers in the Philippines. It was branded by the Catholic Bishops of the Philippines (CBCP) and laymen groups as blasphemous because it defamed the belief of many Filipinos under the said religious sect.

The art exhibit of Medio Cruz dubbed as 'Kulo' (mean boil) received negative reviews from the spectators at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).

Cruz’ piece “Poleteismo," which is part of the “Kulo" art exhibit has been called “blasphemous" by critics and was vandalized last week. (GMA News)

Those who actually saw the full exhibit have one thing to say in common. It was an eye-opener regarding the status or Catholic religion in the country and the issues they've been advocating for the past decades, since Spanish era ended more than 400 years ago.

This is not the first time when well-known Filipinos during Spanish era criticized the Roman Catholic religion because of the awakening of the Filipinos to the right teachings of the true Holy Bible.

Note: This hubber snapped some photos of the controversial exhibit last week (From the last week of July to first week of August, 2011) from the television. It was already censored by ABS-CBN Channel 2. But if some readers will share what they've experiences watching each pieces. You can post comments here, essaying your firsthand account regarding Mr. Cruz's art exhibit.

"Relics" found objects 2004 "Poleteismo / Kulo" Cultural Center of the Philippines, 2011.(Photo by Mideo Cruz)

"Relics" found objects 2004 "Poleteismo / Kulo" Cultural Center of the Philippines, 2011.(Photo by Mideo Cruz)

Art versus Religion - The Kulo Exhibit of Mideo Cruz banned! c/o MrMusicman1971

 An art sculpture by Filipino contemporary artist Mideo Cruz showing his version of Jesus Christ at Manila's Cultural Center of the Philippines, Monday, Aug. 8, 2011.

An art sculpture by Filipino contemporary artist Mideo Cruz showing his version of Jesus Christ at Manila's Cultural Center of the Philippines, Monday, Aug. 8, 2011.

The Harmony of Art and Religion

I can say that people are motivated by art to hasten the faith in the religion they are following. Churches of different denomination will have a painting of serene scenery. Roman Catholics are known for its famous sculptures, wall paintings and other art forms that were done by famous painters, like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.

When I was young, I used to draw the Holy Family (Joseph, Mary & baby Jesus), the angels and other depictions of heavenly creatures. I was raised surrounded by tangible things seen at the local church. The sculpture of Jesus at the Cross, The Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mother Mary and her rosary and the saints.

My views about art and religion broadened as I began appreciating different genre in art, painting and sculpture. I even attended painting class with my master who excelled in impressionistic paintings. Together with my bestfriend (way back in college), we frequent his art studio in order to get acquainted with the styles of Picasso, Van Gogh, Rembrandt, Monet, Da Vinci, Raphael, to mention a few.

Disputes about depicting characters from the Bible were discussed occasionally. The espresso painting of multi-talented French artist-scientist Leonardo Da Vinci sparked early controversy regarding the human depiction about Jesus Christ.

The Last Supper, portraying Jesus in the middle of twelve apostles during their last meal as a whole before the betrayal happened. It is rumored that the model of the face of Jesus was also the model of Judas Iscariote, who betrayed the Redeemer.

The Renaissance era of art in Europe produced awesome products of art, from naturalists, impressionists and abstract artists.

I can say the commissioned artists of the Catholic church popularized the human interpretation of Creation (by Michelangelo), the Holy Family and other events that were based from the Bible.

Congresswoman Imelda Marcos urged to stop the viewing of Mideo Cruz' artwork at the main gallery of CCP. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

Congresswoman Imelda Marcos urged to stop the viewing of Mideo Cruz' artwork at the main gallery of CCP. (Photo courtesy of AFP)

President Aquino's view

The controversial exhibit of UST (University of Santo Tomas) coincides with the university's celebration of the 15th birth anniversary of our national hero Jose Rizal.

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In order to pacify the outcry of the public and other sector, especially the Catholics, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III issued a statement that marked the closure of the said exhibit at the CCP. Prior to this, former First Lady now congresswoman Imelda Marcos (who initiated the establishment of the cultural center) said that the exhibit clearly defamed the prime religion of the country.

P-noy said that 85 percent of Filipinos are Christian and the CCP was funded by the taxpayers and thus “should be in the service of the people.”

“When you insult the beliefs of most of the people, I don’t see where that is of service,” Pinoy added.

“There is no freedom that is absolute. I’m not after censorship. Art is supposed to be ennobling. When you stoke conflict that is not an ennobling activity,” he finally quipped.

News dispatch: In its statement, the CCP said the board of directors made the decision to close down the Main Gallery where the exhibit was displayed “due to numerous emails, text messages and other letters sent to various officers of the CCP, and to the artists themselves, with an increasing number of threats to persons and property”.

"Relics" found objects 2004 "Poleteismo / Kulo" Cultural Center of the Philippines, 2011.(Photo by Mideo Cruz)

"Relics" found objects 2004 "Poleteismo / Kulo" Cultural Center of the Philippines, 2011.(Photo by Mideo Cruz)

“Cruz is a facile generator of anxiety and debate and is skilled in the production of excitingly intellectual images and forms within the unorthodox as seen in his art practice teeming with imitable social and political commentary.” Philip Paraan


Knowing Mideo Cruz

Mideo Cruz may just be one of the many Facebook users before. Until now, everyone is craving to know him better. From the looks of his social media account, I can say that this artist is a well-traveled individual.

The man is widely traveled and has taken time to read up on the cultural history of religious iconography and the origins of religious symbolism.

Cruz is a former student , an undergraduate, of the University of Sto. Tomas (UST). Because of his wide experience regarding interpretation of art in religion and issues they've been involved for the past decades, he was able to put exhibits not only in the country but in countries like Switzerland, Italy and the United States of America (USA) as well.

He was also recipient of the Ateneo Art Awards in 2007 and awarded the CCP 13 artists awards in 2003.

If you don't know how to interpret art, you will also be one of the mob who publicly demanded the closure of his exhibit.

So, critics of Mideo Cruz, lend me your ears. Art installation will vary from exhibit to exhibit. Items you can see at one art or masterpiece can be added or removed from time to time.

The most controversial to date is his masterpiece titled "Poleteismo". His Facebook account will reveal the album of his works. (Please click the highlighted word.)

Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals.If you will compare this to the present society, example in the Philippines, you can observe the symbolism or parallelism regarding its meaning.

The exhibition of Poleteismo started since 2002 in Metro Manila (Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines and Paranaque City). It was also featured in the music video of Stonefree, titled "Anghel sa Lupa" (Angel on Earth). Cruz always recreated this subject.

Poleteismo 2011 version

“Poleteismo” art istallation involved three walls of the main lobby of CCP entirely covered with various images and papers — calendars, bus tickets, old school certificates, photographs, political posters, postcards, advertisements and other printed materials. Jesus, Mary and Joseph are not the only images featured, but the likes of basketball veteran Robert Jaworski endorsing Dr. J. rubbing alcohol; actress Alma Concepcion smiling over Champion cigarettes; two Thai actors selling Coca-cola, and US President Barack Obama, among others.

Adjacent from it was the one free-standing life-size crucifix adorned with scapulars and rosaries, as well as a red phallus where the public outcry started.

Symbolism of Phallus

Symbologists who continue studying ancient symbols, inteprets phallus as symbol of power. A friend of mine told me and I also read it from a National Geographic article that it's been revered as important symbol in Bhutan. If you visit this country, you can see phallic poles at the main thoroughfares of its capital city.

Cruz said that: There are those who worship power, who put their faith in men who wield power even if the power is used against women, or against the whole of society. The fight for sexual and gender equality continues, doesn’t it? But the balance continues to be tipped in favor of the phallus. Is this good or bad? You decide,” he said.

Those who viewed the exhibit told the public that they've seen lots of phallic symbols, including condoms (of different colors) that interpreted the present stand of Filipino women regarding Reproductive Health Bill,as Cruz opined.

Poleteismo 3 NEXUS Loyola School of Theology Lobby Ateneo de Manila University Philippines 2007 (Photo by Mideo Cruz)

Poleteismo 3 NEXUS Loyola School of Theology Lobby Ateneo de Manila University Philippines 2007 (Photo by Mideo Cruz)

Whether or not you'll be angry with me, it's what i've observed after immersing myself as a Catholic devout since my childhood.

The action of Mideo Cruz, through his artworks fueled me to impart my views about this Great Babylonian religion, where Roman Catholicism was patterned. Today, there is no more profile photo of him that you can see at his Facebook account for fear of being killed by angry Catholic mob and sympathizers. They're playing dirty again.

Just take note of the words as in buying an indulgence , the practice of confession between you and the priest, intercession of saints when praying, and the veneration of Mother Mary in order to be forgiven from sins (biennial or mortal sins).

It clearly shows that there's something wrong when a celebration of mass is conducted. It chilled me to the bones when I discovered that what I was doing at the church was wrong.

The presence of idols inside the Church premise clearly indicate that it is not the teachings of God written on the pages of the Holy Bible.

There is, really is, wrong with the Catholic religious system.

Many were silenced (assasinated or killed) because of the TRUTH. The truth dates back to the era of Moses from the Old Testament when he revealed the Ten Commandments of God to the Israelites.

If we could only reflect and re-read was is written in the Bible, it is only there that we will know the truth, ABSOLUTE TRUTH.

You can also read my other hub, regarding former priest Albwerto Rivera thourgh, "The Crusaders.

With lots of knowledge within our grasp, let us united to reveal the truth that we keep ignoring: That the truth lies in Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Light.

Maybe, at the end of your reading, you will also research for this subject that I'm wanting to expose for a long time.

The time is now.

Art & Religion


Ireno Alcala (author) from Bicol, Philippines on May 12, 2017:

@ Jude Ian: Thank you for posting your reaction. I have/I had forgotten this already, since I am not active writing for the past year (since Duterte administration started, I don't know why.).Phallus is a symbol of power, that's why it is being revered and celebrated in such countries, like Japan, Bhutan and Nepal. Regardless of faith affiliation or religious sects, the patriarchal approach in our daily dwellings will never cease to occur.

Ian Spike from Cebu, Philippines on April 19, 2017:

I remember when this broke the news, so much outrage. As an artist and Filipino, my opinion agrees with the author of this hub @Ireno Alcala. Art is meant to be expressive, and can be viewed on multiple vantage points. The artist himself is trying to send a message, which was received negatively. But I'm not sure the major public (and some of the commenters here) were able to grasp the true meaning behind it, except for seeing it as a form of blasphemy. Why do we cringe seeing a phallus on a cross when in truth it's a part of the male human body? Why do we have to be hypocrites towards sex when that is how we survive: by procreation? I just chose to see it not as disrespecting Christ and his sacrifice for mankind, but a symbol of the patriarchal society that the Catholic church is pushing for. That's the truth. Are the Filipinos ever gonna be ready for such evolution? I don't think so. Because we are so accustomed to these beliefs that we close our eyes when we are presented with new ideas, new theories, or new facts regarding religion. We as a society are so deep in being brainwashed that we refuse to accept the possibility that we might be believing in the wrong things. And like the conquistadors and barbaric inquisitors in history, we are willing to kill those who disagree with the majority.

Ireno Alcala (author) from Bicol, Philippines on July 12, 2015:

@Penny Sworth: Thank you for your wife understanding about arts and religion. It adds to my enlightenment since I fully appreciate arts because of my religion.

Penny Sworth on April 05, 2015:

There's definitely something sinister going on between Art and Religion, but I find that it's nothing more than political trash.

With every change of government, leadership or ruler, or change of political status, comes territory change. You'll find in English speaking countries the English ruled over the lands and waters at one time (i.e: in terms of distance The Falkland Islands is closer to Argentina than the UK, yet it's currently ruled by The British and has a British Flag overseeing it).

In French speaking countries the French ruled at one time. Jamaica, in the West Indies is full of place names that are Spanish, and that's because the Spanish ruled Jamaica at one time. Likewise, so too are The Arts very much a part of this whole infiltration regime by whosoever rules.

In Art, the artist can impose the dominance of the ruler's view.

In Art, the artist can convey political, subtle and subliminal messages, and leave it to your own imagination and interpretations.

In Art, the artist can infer a personal view without drawing too much attention to the detail of beliefs.

The study of both Art and Religion come under The Academic Disciplines of Humanities - the study of the human moment.

Performing Arts and Visual Arts are still 'human moments' that depict human accolades, whereas to Practice Religion in terms of being an authority figure or elder within that religious organisation comes under The Academic Disciplines of Applied Science, yet many people today still believe that Science And Religion don't mix.

Religious History is always treated as a separate entity to Secular History. The two don't compliment each other but they are not at odds with each other.

The Occult is also another subject not to be trifled with as this comes under The Arts heading - not as an Academic Discipline but as Humanities Secret Society.

My point is that Art, Actively Reveals Truth (ART), but has to play it down with an act, whilst Religion as an Applied Science acts as a medium to conceal truths (Artistically Conceals Truths (ACTS).

The Truth is that both Art and Religion are just by-products of your imagination and earthly opportunities to rise and shine and win at manipulating The Game Of Life.

Thank You!

Ireno Alcala (author) from Bicol, Philippines on September 18, 2011:

@alliana: We cannot limit other people's interpretation about sensitive issues in our society.

Ireno Alcala (author) from Bicol, Philippines on September 15, 2011:

@thesailor: People are sometimes fixated on things they think are right. They were surprised when someone braved to really see and interpreted what's happening in our society.

thesailor from Seven Seas on September 02, 2011:

This is the reality of art and religion. I hope people will think of the timely message the artist is conveying to us.

Thanks for sharing, travel man.

Ireno Alcala (author) from Bicol, Philippines on September 01, 2011:

@raymart c. agustin: Freedom is limited because on what we perceived about the proper norm of things in the society.

What Mideo Cruz wants to convey on his art installation is the effect of that freedom in our religious affiliation, especially Catholicism.

alliana on August 30, 2011:

its not the way of expressing feelings

raymart c. agustin on August 26, 2011:

freedom express there is no limit but your feelings and attention if is limited because the art painting is not art it is NO DECIPLINES. . .

Ireno Alcala (author) from Bicol, Philippines on August 21, 2011:

@jaj: In art, anything is possible. Even the famous painter Pablo Picasso earned too much ridicule in his lifetime as an artist due to his unconventional interpretation of human forms.

I hope Mideo Cruz will grant a thorough interview with this hubber so, that he can explain his side as to why he did the theme on his exhibit.

Ireno Alcala (author) from Bicol, Philippines on August 21, 2011:

@Romano Arnesto: If one can appreciate art however vulgar or controversial it is, he/she must personally ask how a particular artist put his interpretation into it.

What Mideo Cruz did was to incorporate religious symbols and the issues Catholic church stand for for the past decades and how it affect the strata of Filipino society.

To tell you frankly, I am collating data to interpret more the messages he wants to convey to the public.

I'll write it in another hub.

Thanks for your unbiased opinion. Much appreciated.

Ireno Alcala (author) from Bicol, Philippines on August 21, 2011:

@Joven: I think, Mideo Cruz will not be invited in a Muslim country. It is very timely that the Kulo exhibit was put into exhibit in order to draw different reactions about the religion that blinded most of us, Filipinos, regarding the veracity of what's written in the Bible. Please take the hint.

P.S. I don't hate Catholics (I am, I was). We should save more souls by opening their eyes to the Truth that's been written thousand of years ago by the Son of God, Himself, Jesus Christ through his trusted apostles and prophets.

This is the time to renew our vow to our faith in Him.

jaj on August 17, 2011:

cruz has no respect on religion, if he is a good artist perhaps he can illustrate images with good messages an art that is full of morale values, he must go to a psycho specialist

is this the right way to be popular or just to catch public attention by doing like this?

he has a problem

Romano Arnesto from Philippines on August 16, 2011:

This is a crucial stage in interpreting art especially in the subject called polytheism.

I think, what the artist, Mideo Cruz, wants to convey is where belief on Catholicism is leading to and the issues the clergies of the sect stands for these days.

Most of the viewers opined that it was blatantly shocking.

Filipinos are not ready with that kind of interpretation.

Joven on August 15, 2011:

Reading your opinion i know from the start your against catholic... please look at the picture, think why!? you call it art, right? then why dont you try to make it in muslim country? putting a peniz on jesus pics is art?

Ireno Alcala (author) from Bicol, Philippines on August 14, 2011:

@earthbound1974: Thanks for the precautionary measure regarding this hub. I think about it for a long time, whether to share my thoughts about it or not.

Truth should prevail about this; so, I published it even though I can be subject of ridicule by readers who don't agree with both my opinion and the Truth coming from the Bible.

earthbound1974 from Bicol, Philippines on August 11, 2011:

This is very revealing, travel man. Sometimes, truth hurts, but we must accept it if our faith will lead us to the right path.

A broader and deeper understanding must be possessed by readers who will come across your hub.

God be with you!

Thanks for sharing this hub.

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