Is Mideo Cruz’s Poleteismo exhibit art? Thoughts on polytheism, iconography, and Lord of the Rings

Here is a description of the Poleteismo exhibit:

When they find it in one of the alcoves of the Main Gallery, they will see multicolored plastic piggy banks stuffed inside a case usually reserved for religious statues; and Christ the King with a bright red clown nose, his right hand replaced by a Mickey Mouse glove, and his head crowned with Mickey Mouse ears made from a Coke can.

Hanging behind a divider is a cross with a bright red penis thrusting out from the vertical bar. And on the walls, a multimedia collage composed of a confusion of images and objects: there are ads, political paraphernalia from Fernando Poe Junior, Gilbert Teodoro, and Barack Obama; there are religious posters of Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary, and the Holy Family; there are handouts, pamphlets, and stickers; there are rosaries, penis ashtrays, crucifixes, condoms, and Christmas lights; there’s a lot of stuff.

Polytheism is the worship of many gods.  Even though there are many gods, ancient men has portrayed them always as separate entities.  The depictions of the God’s of Egypt are many, using different man-animal combinations, but you know who is who.   Egyptian art is governed by rules. Ra is depicted with head of falcon and sun disk. Sekhmet is a woman with a lion’s head.  So if you depict Ra with a lion’s head, the rule is broken and it ceases to be art according to Egyptian hieroglyphic rules.

Christian iconography, though not the same as Egyptian art, is also based on rules.  Most of these rules are given based on the Bible.  For the case of the icon of the Sacred Heart, the image is based on the Last Judgment and the promise of Angel Gabriel to Mary:

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. 32o He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High,* and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, 33and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end. (Lk 1:31-33)

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32g and all the nations* will be assembled before him. (Mt 25:31-32)

This is why you see Christ depicted with a crown and sceptre, because they stand for kingship.  The beating heart aflame and pierced is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible:

“Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us? (Road to Emmaus, Lk 24:32)

But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs, 34*s but one soldier thrust his lance into his side, and immediately blood and water flowed out (Jn 19:33-34)

My heart is overwhelmed, my pity is stirred. 9I will not give vent to my blazing anger, I will not destroy Ephraim again; For I am God and not a man,g the Holy One present among you; I will not come in wrath. (Hos 11:8-9)

Now, is Poleteismo exhibit of Mideo Cruz based on rules?  Like many modern art, Poleteismo is not based on rules.    Modern poems have freed themselves from the strictures of rhyming and meter resulting to free verses.  Modern paintings in the tradition of Picasso are also not based on rules but on an endless search for the Platonic form stripped of the accidentals–the rules of perspective and the physics of light.  Like a disembodied spirit, you see nothing in modern art but a mirage, an illusion formed in your mind of what could have been–full of potential but achieving nothing.

Classical art, in contrast, do not begin with the Platonic form but with reality, and uses the limitations of reality to convey the Platonic form.  Anguish is an abstraction, but you know it when you see the face of Christ in pain.  Sacrifice is an abstraction, but you know it when you see Christ crucified on the cross.  Modern art fails because it falsely assumes that man is not an embodied spirit whose knowledge of reality is conveyed by the senses.

This leads us to the question: is modern art true art?  As long as it has precise rules for interpreting, then it is art; if not, it is just a plain drawing.  With this definition, I would call Egyptian hieroglyphics, Chinese characters, and Aztec picture writing as true abstract arts.  But modern art of Picasso and Mideo Cruz I shall not call true abstract art.

But there is something else in Mideo Cruz’s Poleteismo: mockery of what is.  In Lord of the Rings, this is a mark of the things bred by evil, for Evil cannot create but can only mock.  As Frodo said to Sam concerning Orcs:

No, they eat and drink, Sam.  The Shadow that bred them can only mock, it cannot make: not real new things of its own.  I don’t think it gave life to the orcs, it only ruined them and twisted them; and if they are to live at all, they have to live like other living creatures.  Foul waters and foul meats they’ll take, if they can get no better, but not poison.   (Return of the King p. 201)

The orcs were made in the mockery of elves and men.

So when Mideo Cruz mock not men but the image of Christ, the Son of God, by giving Christ Mickey mouse ears and nose, there is something evil afoot.  Black Masses in Satan worship turn the crucifix upside down, turning salvation inside out, making man as gods, and glorifying all the sins against the Ten Commandments.  The first three commandments has been easily disposed.  The fourth is by rebellion to figures of authority, not only parents, but also the government, the church, and rules of good art.   The fifth is by killing the reputation of a good man–the Man-God Christ–and all those who followed Christianity for more than 2000 years.  The sixth and the ninth are by the promotion of the reproductive health bill and its ills–fornication and adultery–by sticking out the condom in the cross.  The eighth is by using freedom of speech to speak falsehood.  And the seventh and 10th by coveting and forcibly taking the authority of the Catholic Church to declare what is morally good and evil.

Mockery of God is a devilish craft, and Mideo Cruz’s Poleteismo has the mark of the devil’s claw.

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Loyola House of Studies denies showing controversial works of Mideo Cruz at 2007 Tutok Nexus Exhibit

The statement by Fr. Jose Mario Francisco, S.J. regarding the CCP exhibit:

We categorically deny reports that the controversial works of Mideo Cruz at
CCP were part of the 2007 Tutok Nexus exhibit at Loyola School of Theology,
Ateneo de Manila.
Jose Mario C. Francicso, SJ

President
Loyola School of Theology
Ateneo de Manila University

Was the CCP Poleteismo exhibit condemned by the bishops shown before in Loyola House of Studies?

Update: Loyola House of Studies denies showing controversial works of Mideo Cruz at 2007 Tutok Nexus Exhibit

From the Business World:

Since the controversy over Poleteismo exploded, the CCP’s Visual Arts Unit has been fielding calls from people requesting that Kulo be shut down. “The CCP will not be party to any censorship or suppression. Let it be a point of discussion,” said Ms. Flores, adding that she has seen works at the CCP that were “really, really, really more provocative and disturbing.” (Jose Legaspi’s installation in the Small Gallery, for example, which included a modified Pieta showing the Virgin Mother vomiting on the dead Christ.)

Poleteismo is an old piece first shown in 2002 at the Vargas Museum of the University of the Philippines. Mr. Cruz wasn’t thinking of the Reproductive Health Bill when he conceived Poleteismo nine years ago.

Versions of the installation have been exhibited elsewhere, most notably in 2007 in the lobby of the Loyola House of Studies (LHS) — a seminary inside the campus of the Ateneo de Manila University — as part of Tutok: Nexus, a group exhibit organized in cooperation with Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan (SLB), “an association of religious priests, seminarians and lay people committed to the service of the Filipino Church and the Filipino nation.”

If Catholic clergymen had kept quiet, if Archbishop Oscar Cruz hadn’t called the exhibit “sickening,” if he hadn’t called the artist “sick,” if he hadn’t advised the artist to see a psychiatrist, if he hadn’t implied that the artist’s sexuality was abnormal, if Bishop Deogracias Iniguez hadn’t called for a boycott, then Mideo Cruz’s Poleteismo could have gone unnoticed by the larger public.

When they find it in one of the alcoves of the Main Gallery, they will see multicolored plastic piggy banks stuffed inside a case usually reserved for religious statues; and Christ the King with a bright red clown nose, his right hand replaced by a Mickey Mouse glove, and his head crowned with Mickey Mouse ears made from a Coke can.

Hanging behind a divider is a cross with a bright red penis thrusting out from the vertical bar. And on the walls, a multimedia collage composed of a confusion of images and objects: there are ads, political paraphernalia from Fernando Poe Junior, Gilbert Teodoro, and Barack Obama; there are religious posters of Jesus Christ, Virgin Mary, and the Holy Family; there are handouts, pamphlets, and stickers; there are rosaries, penis ashtrays, crucifixes, condoms, and Christmas lights; there’s a lot of stuff.

“Thereís nothing there that you won’t see in Quiapo,” said Karen O. Flores, officer-in-charge of the CCP Visual Arts Unit.