The visual arts director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) who had approved the controversial exhibit that sparked outrage among politicians and religious activists has resigned, even as artists’ groups decried the CCP for submitting to demands to close down the exhibit.
Karen Flores announced her decision at a forum at the University of the Philippines on Wednesday on the political debate generated by “Kulo,” the exhibit which was closed down on Tuesday following threats to CCP officials and acts of vandalism.
The show included an installation by artist Mideo Cruz which featured the controversial image of Jesus Christ with a wooden penis on his face, that became the target of politicians and religious clerics and activists who found it obscene and offensive.
Flores, whose announcement was greeted by applause from students and faculty members, stressed that her withdrawal from the CCP was not meant to evade investigation.
“I can still be sued. Go ahead,” she said.
Various Catholic and Christian groups have threatened to file charges against the artists and CCP officials for alleged violations of the Revised Penal Code provisions against obscene exhibitions and indecent shows.
Legislators said they would call for an inquiry because the offending exhibit was installed in state-owned venue.
Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing has been soliciting signatures from House members for a resolution calling on the CCP officials to resign. Several senators have expressed support for his views.
The leader of the opposition in the House of Representatives on Wednesday cautioned his colleagues against “overreacting” to a controversial art work even if it may have been “really over” (excessive).
Majority Leader Edcel Lagman said there was no need to call for the resignation of CCP officials.
Artists’ Arrest, a loose network of artists and artists’ groups, on Wednesday called on the CCP board to rethink its position on closing down the exhibit, saying it already constituted censorship.
“The action of the CCP is discouraging and even disturbing as it displays submission to unfair demands it initially ruled out,” said the group that includes singers Cynthia Alexander and Bobby Balingit.
Right to express
“You don’t destroy somebody else’s work if it sickens you as you are free to make your own art that can challenge that or write a scathing review or critique, whichever suits you best,” the group said in a statement.
The group called on artists to “defend our right to express ourselves.”
J. Pacena II, who curated the show, said the CCP board’s action “sets a bad precedent.”
“I am shocked and appalled by how our civil liberties were exploited to satiate the sensibilities of a raucous mob. In effect, majority of the participants’ ideas and artistic expressions were neglected and compromised by this decision,” he said in a statement.
At the UP forum, the CCP chair Emily Abrera, said the board was “practically bullied” into closing down the exhibit. The threats and safety concerns for the artists and employees were their reasons for shutting down the show, she explained.
Abrera said she supported Flores and would not resign as chair, a position she has served for six years. “They have to take me out,” she said. With Niña Calleja and Cynthia D. Balana