Saturday, August 13, 2011

Some thoughts on offensive art.

Former UP Law dean Raul Pangalangan wrote probably the most sane comment on the "Poleteismo" brouhaha at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).  He exposes Philippine society's "grave misconceptions on why we offer communal protection for expressive freedoms".  The law dean notes the hate mail and messages sent the CCP which threatened the safety of CCP employees and so the center shut down the exhibit.

For starters following Thomas Jefferson, I swear to be"in eternal enmity over any tyranny over the mind of man". I am against any entity that censors and/or vandalizes art. Rightly so because the Nazi Holocaust started by vandalizing "degenerate art", then burning books which then led to burning people!

However not all art is uplifting, some are offensive. For me the only way to deal with offensive art is not to look at them. Another example: offensive literature cannot be banned without shooting liberty and democracy in the foot. In Germany where the de-Nazification laws are still in the books, Hitler's offensive "Mein Kampf" (which is no work of art!) cannot be be banned by German authorities but they can restrict access to it to researchers and scholars after signing an affidavit. The Germans have learned the lesson that censorship always comes before a monstrous tyranny that even Hitler's ideas have to be protected IN ORDER TO GUARANTEE THE DEMOCRATIC ORDER. But the Germans are sane enough to learn the lessons of the Thousand Year Reich and so Hitler's ideas are marginalized in democratic Germany.

Readers should not take this to mean that I like Mideo Cruz's work. I don't and I find it unappealing since I can't get what it means. I have seen it and I don't want to see it again. I have an example of a work of art I find particularly offensive which I don't want to see ever again!

It is offensive to me because it goes contrary to everything what the Catholic faith teaches about the nature of Jesus Christ which the work of art purports to represent. However unlike "Politeismo" this one hangs not in an art gallery (where one can choose not to see it) but in a post-modern Roman Catholic chapel and over the altar where those attending Mass can't avoid not seeing it!

However, I won't write the Archbishop of Manila to shut down the Roman Catholic place of worship just because there is an offensive crucifix there.

Why because as we have learned in Hitler's Germany. Offensive art cannot kill. But offended people do. So I do not agree to the CCP closing its exhibit or the closure of that "heretical" Roman Catholic place of worship.

I worry that the recent controversy has set the Philippines on a path that eventually constrains the freedom of worship (especially for religious minorities)

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