Shock Art

Part of the "Poleteismo" exhibit

Was it an expression or a desecration?

That’s the fiery debate about “Poleteismo” by artist Mideo Cruz, “an art exhibit that combines religious symbols with phallic objects” at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), where “[a] sculpture showed a penis hanging from a wooden cross while another portrayed Christ as Mickey Mouse.” (Source: As expected, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines condemned the exhibit and the CCP recently withdrew it.

Now, I understand the hurt “Poleteismo” inflicted to people who venerate religious images. But, interestingly, it is actually a part of an “exhibit of images and figurines of saints and Jesus Christ titled ‘Kulo’ by a group of 30 artists from the University of Sto. Tomas” (ibid), which all of us know is a Roman Catholic university. Also, it appears that since 2002 the controversial exhibit was already displayed in venues such as the Vargas Museum in the University of the Philippines and the Loyola School of Theology in Ateneo de Manila University (which is also a Roman Catholic university). So, some people are asking, “Why react only now? Is the Church becoming ultra-sensitive in view of the recent, perceived siege against the Catholic faith because of the proposed Reproductive Health and the Divorce bills?”

But, we should be more concerned not with the timing of the reaction but the way it could be expressed. One piece of the exhibit was already defaced. There are even those who went to the extent of calling for a lynch mob. Yet, as one Catholic faithful wisely wrote in a blog, “I think the proper response to his artwork is the opposite of what we have already witnessed. Perhaps the better response is nonchalance or indifference but certainly not vandalism or name-calling because it merely reinforces the implied criticism that the artwork wants to get across which is blind worship of icons or images.” And, before we Evangelical Christians point an accusing finger, let me remind us of the way some of us overreacted by burning copies of Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code.”

Remember that we are followers of the Lord Who taught us to love our enemies and “turn the other cheek”. In defending our faith, we are to “do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.”(1 Peter 3:15b-16, ESV)

Brethren, respond, not react.


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