An art exhibit featuring a Jesus Christ poster with a wooden penis glued to His face has sparked protests in the mainly Catholic Philippines.
Bishops and lay groups have demanded the state-run Cultural Center of the Philippines close the exhibit on grounds it is blasphemous, immoral, illegal and offends the country’s Catholic majority.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines said on its website that Christian lay groups were also preparing a lawsuit.
The artist is Mideo Cruz, an alumni from a church-run university there, and the display is part of a project meant to “challenge people’s perceptions of figures they idolize.”
I could see that being the objective if the art in question was a naked, anatomically correct Jesus; people seem to forget that if he ever was a man, then he had to have man parts. But a penis on a face?
It also includes a cross made of discarded wood with a woodcarving of a penis attached, and an icon of Jesus that has a red clown nose and Mickey Mouse ears.
Cultural Center of the Philippines chairwoman Emily Abrera defended the work on Wednesday, saying it was part of the artist’s duty to challenge prevailing beliefs.
What beliefs could these possibly challenge? Is the art meant to highlight a false belief that Jesus didn’t have a sense of humour? That he really may have had a proclivity toward novelty noses that never made it through the final edit of the New Testament? It doesn’t sound like it’s a very well thought out art project and it certainly doesn’t sound like it’s having the effect the artist was aiming for — unless the true intent was to rile up 85% of the country and get a news story out of it. That’s the estimated number of Catholics in the country as reported in the article.
“We see nothing wrong with it. It is part of our culture to question, to seek answers, to look behind the surface and try to dig out what our real values are,” she said on ABS-CBN television.
What kind of dialogue will an art display like this create? What kind of Q & A? I guess I can think of a way this might work to change perceptions, if people really are willing to go through that.
Once people start to think they’re offended by something, they tend to not listen to reason anymore. They’re too tied up in their own emotional reactions so they need to be aware of that and take a step back. They need to stop and ask themselves why it bothers them to see Jesus with a wooden woody or a funny nose. Then they need to figure out how to respond with something other than the automatic “Because it’s blasphemy!” freak-out. That’s not a logical answer nor a good argument starter for why their stance against that art should have merit.
This kind of behaviour is just as ridiculous as strict Muslims wanting to ban all images of Mohammad. There’s no good reason; there’s just religious reason: an aim by those in power to insist on and enforce bizarre restrictions as a way to control the populous. And, for whatever reason (risk of death?) the believers will abide and many will even be glad to do it. I’d liken it to gilded cages but I don’t think these cages are built to be beautiful.
The only complaint I’d make about the art would be this: it doesn’t sound like talent is on display. An artist should want to be more than provocative. An artist should want to be admired for his or her skill, especially when the work is meant to be provocative. If they want it to be worth talking about, then it needs to be worth looking at, no matter how gruesome or painful the audience reaction might be. I don’t know if this stuff qualifies. This sounds more like a display put out by a shit-disturber rather than someone with a serious “We need to re-think religion” message. The article only features one image of the art, though, so I could be wrong about that.