Portia Placino

Repository of my thoughts and images of art, literature, travel, and life.

Art Conversations: Critical Art Practices in the Philippines

Rizal, 11 years old, a student at the Ateneo M...

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A hundred and fifty years after Jose Rizal’s death, about a hundred years after Marcel Duchamp’s The Fountain, where do we actually find ourselves? We are still stuck in the conventions of the great masters of the great museums all over the world. At least, it appears that we are. How did we get here? How did the Filipino aesthetic sensibility missed the point of modern art as we proceed towards the end of a post-modern world. We are also at the balancing point as the contemporary art world tends to move beyond the post-modern. A post-post-modern perhaps? Yet, as recent controversies surface, it appears that the Philippine artworld, at least that outside of the academe, was left far behind in terms of art discourse. The national art institution–the Cultural Center of the Philippines, remains stuck within the concept of “the true, the good and the beautiful”, being left behind by contemporary art discourse.

The controversy surrounding the Kulo Exhibit for the commemoration of Jose Rizal’s 150th birth anniversary started almost quietly, as the artworld laughed it off and regarded it as something that would increase Mideo Cruz’s market value. But soon enough, due to the influence of the netizens on the internet, it exploded into something else. There were numerous controversies surrounding the artworld before, but it has never been as widely felt as Mideo Cruz’s Poleteismo. The most obvious reason is that it went head to head against a powerful Philippine institution–the Catholic Church. Another reason is the media hype created through the use of traditional media–television, radio and newspaper and heightened by the new media–the internet. For the first time, every person who has access to the internet, which is a large percent of the Filipino people can give their comments and opinions through various sites available, as well as on the articles published by the daily newspapers. Everyone can express the voice and be heard, without the curatorship of newspapers and publishers. These comments can also be made under the cloak of anonymity, so there was a no limitation and no censorship on the opinion on the matter. Art even became a trending topic on Twitter during the senatorial hearing conducted for the controversy. There were a healthy amount of debates, not only on the “offensive” nature of Mideo Cruz’s art work, but more importantly, on the nature of art itself.

Various issues were brought up, that in a matter of days and weeks, the art exposure and education of the Filipino population was widely exposed. Surprisingly, numerous debates that have been long-buried within the academic world was once again unearthed by the population. The very nature of art and artist was debated upon along with the concept of good art and bad art, as well as the concept and definition of beauty. Even the role of the institutions in art production as well as the rules, regulations and laws that may apply to art production was widely explored. Some concepts were surprisingly archaic while others were issues are very complex as it applies to the Filipino imagination.

 Part I of Art Conversations. I am working on this topic. I am posting it here, hoping for a response from those who wants to engage in this conversation.

2 comments on “Art Conversations: Critical Art Practices in the Philippines

  1. Pingback: Art Conversations: The Concept and Question of “Beauty” and “Sublime” « Portia Placino

  2. Pingback: Art Conversations: Ideas and Aesthetics of Modernism « Portia Placino

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