CCP eyes policy review amid 'Kulo' scandal

By Caroline Howard, ANC

Posted at Aug 10 2011 12:55 PM | Updated as of Aug 11 2011 02:14 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) is set to review its policies following criticism generated by the controversial "Kulo" exhibit.

An installation titled "Poleteismo" by artist Medeo Cruz, which was part of the 30-man exhibit, fanned an uproar among various groups for supposedly being offensive to the Catholic faith.

"Majority of us feel there are some religious sensitivities that were offended here," said CCP President Raul Sunico on ANC's "The Rundown" on Tuesday. 

"This will be our guide for the next discussion and soon, we will be coming out with a policy that will clearly define what the artistic limits are, what the artistic responsibilities are. This is a wake-up call also that perhaps the policies we have formulated so far will probably need some refinement."

"When artistic freedom treads in religious beliefs or is viewed as objectionable, then it's time to review what is there."

On Tuesday, the CCP board voted to close the "Kulo" exhibit in the interest of public safety.  It was scheduled to run from June 17 to August 21.

'For safety reasons'

"The CCP went into the decision of closing the exhibit for public safety reasons," CCP Artistic Director Chris Millado said in an interview on ANC's "Headstart."

"The engagement has become so vicious and unhealthy. At some point, we thought it wise to close the exhibit because it was becoming counter-productive."

"Even if this was closed down, this does not mean we stop altogether," Sunico noted, adding this gives them the opportunity to review their processes for mounting exhibits. 

Currently, Sunico says, they usually entrust specific exhibitions to particular CCP division heads, and the artistic committee, while approval depends on the number of applications and the duration of the run.

Sunico said there is an existing memorandum of agreement that allows the CCP to review and modify proposed or running exhibits.   

National Artist for Literature Bien Lumbera has expressed disappointment over the CCP's decision.

Legal action

Despite the closure order for the exhibit, critics have not abandoned plans to take legal action against CCP officials and Cruz.

On Tuesday, Atty. Jo Imbong of the St. Thomas More Society Inc. said they will press charges.

Sunico defended CCP officials amid calls from some senators for them to apologize or resign over the controversy.

"I am confident CCP is not remiss in its duties as some legislators probably claim. Whatever aggravation this has caused we continue to review our policies... we are conscious of our mandate. To the best of our abilities even our board members will try to settle this professionally," Sunico said.

Millado said lawmakers should look at the situation of artists.

"I personally don't see a basis to this call.  We should revisit what the real issue is.  Our lawmakers should look at this as an opportunity to look at the situation of artists, that we need funding and support... and we need to value this space called creative freedom."

Artistic freedom

Millado said Cruz's mural was not intended to poke fun at religion but rather evoke critical thought thru its depiction of Filipino popular culture.   

He said the controversy over the "Kulo" exhibit is a reality check on artistic limits and underscores the need for continuing art education among Filipinos.

"This is a lesson to us, a reflection in terms of the artist, how far they an stretch this notion of freedom and creative expression and question themselves in terms of what responsibility they have in terms of handling certain images," Millado said.

Millado also defended Cruz who drew heavy criticisms for his installation.

"Its difficult for visual artists to defend their work. They speak thru color and lines," he said.

He said Cruz is expected to attend a forum at the University of the Philippines today on his controversial work.