Seeing Christ in ‘Kulo, Gathering of UST Artists’

These are two separate paintings by Michelle Pauline Lim from left: “Place Where Ego Meets” Oil on canvas 36 in X 48 in and “Innocent Kiss” dried rose, resin acrylic and oil on canvas 36 X 36 in. Photo by Jude Bautista

(Happy Birthday Delicate Rose)

Written and photographed

By Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista

Last July 16, 2011 I was busy trying to watch and squeeze in as many Cinemalaya films as I can. I just finished with the gala for ‘Niño.’ ‘Patikul’ by Joel Lamangan was to follow next. An exhibit opening in Sigwada Gallery had to be given up with much consternation on my part. Then I saw the poster and gallery for “Kulo Gathering of UST Artists” also at the CCP, just a floor above where the gala screening held cocktails. Scanning through the names which were more than 30, I immediately noticed Michelle Pauline Lim whom I wrote about before. So I went in the exhibit and looked for her work. Another piece that caught my eye and ear was a music video installation by Jaime Paceña II. It was for Gloc 9’s  “Sa Akin Lang Naman.”

I only had enough time to shoot Michelle’s work and the 3 TV sets playing footages of ordinary people rapping before I had to run to the ‘Patikul’ gala. Weeks later my mother informed me about some offensive works of art desecrating the image of Christ at the CCP. Being in my own world of film and music reviews, I did not connect it to “Kulo-Gathering of UST Artists.” Honestly I could not believe it was the same exhibit that caused so much controversy even though I was not able to examine all of the works in it. Finally I saw a facebook note by CCP Visual Arts “Calling for sobriety”. The note reported that the exhibit had been attacked and vandalized and yes it was that same exhibit that had some ‘offensive’ art work.

First and foremost, whatever anyone thinks of the artworks therein any form of violence directed at the exhibit HAS TO BE condemned by ALL. As Christians, Catholics and followers of Christ the violent acts towards the exhibit cannot be justified. There are innumerable examples of the words of Christ himself: “Love thy enemies, Forgive 70 x 7 times…” IF you believe that the works are offensive there are legal means to stop it. You can also voice your opinion about it. There are many ways to express one’s indignation on the ‘offensive’ work of art that are legal and follows the teachings of Christ. Destroying property and causing harm on others is decidedly UNCHRISTIAN.

Second the call for the exhibit to be closed is completely unfounded and wrong. Malaya.com reported that Pro-Life president Eric Manalang called for the immediate closure of the exhibit. Out of a total of 32 artists’ works possibly 2 or 3 have been deemed ‘offensive.’ There are 29 other artists who have absolutely nothing to do with the 3 ‘offensive’ works. And yet Manalang has demanded that the whole exhibit be closed. It is a blanket accusation to ALL the works of art and artists involved.

The best way to propagate the Christian faith is to show that we truly have Christ in our lives, reflected in our actions. This is the perfect opportunity to show that God is about love and forgiveness. As Catholics we are moved by REAL examples. Pope John Paul II forgave his own assailant. In 1981 Four bullets nearly killed him, 2 in the intestine one on the left hand and the other on his right arm. After recovering Pope John Paul visited Mehmet Agca in jail to show the world a true gesture of love and forgiveness. Non Catholics were able to see what Christ is about through the very real act of forgiveness by Pope John Paul II.

Music video installation by Jaime Paceña II. It was for Gloc 9’s “Sa Akin Lang Naman.” Photo composite by Jude Bautista

The two works that I was able to photograph that is part of “Kulo-Gathering of UST artists” make very important statements connected to the issue. Michelle Pauline Lim’s work entitled “Innocent Kiss” have the words on them “Love is a gift not an obligation.” Love truly is a gift from God. Christ would never oblige us to hate, not even an artwork that desecrates his own image. If the artists have offended our Christian faith let us show them that we have a faith that is able to show love and forgiveness. If we are violent towards the exhibit and the artists, our Christian faith is a sham filled with hollow words and hypocrisy. But if we show true love and forgiveness it is that art work which is made false and absurd.

The music video by Jay Paceña for Gloc 9 is for the song “Sa Akin Lang Naman” from the ‘Talumpati’ album. The installation had three separate TV sets arranged horizontally. Each screen has a head shot / close up of a face. Different people from all walks of life, gender, size and look are on screen rapping the song. Gloc 9 doesn’t even come on until half the song is nearly done. The intention of the artist / director is to give importance to the opinion of the common man. All of us have different thoughts and opinions, it is important in a free society that we not only respect but defend that freedom. In the song he says “Hindi tama ang mag bintang subukan nating magbilang, ilang taon nang dumaan bakit napag iiwanan? Di ko po kayo pinangungunahan o dinidiktahan, dahil ang sinasabi ko’y akin lang naman.”

Personally, I am more afraid of violent acts made in the name of Christianity than the desecration of an image of Christ. The Lord also said that his church is not the physical structure of worship. It is not the old churches that we see standing and lifeless. The church is alive; it is the people who believe and have faith in HIM, who live his gospel.

Christian Bautista sings to the kids from Autism Society of the Phil (ASP) and World Vision during the media tour for "A Special Symphony". Photo by Jude Bautista

Just last Sunday I was able to photograph Christian Bautista living his faith. He wasn’t verbally proclaiming the word of God. What he did was to share his talent for the benefit of the children from Autism Society of the Phil and World Vision. During his very tight and busy schedule he took the time to listen to the word of God on a Sunday nearly causing him to be late to his own movie premiere. If we live our faith showing love and forgiveness is that not a more powerful and convincing defense than condemning a piece of art?

The following is a list of the 33 participating artists in “Kulo..”. I want to thank them for baring themselves and their views in their art work. More importantly I want to thank them for reminding us what Christianity is supposed to be about: Andres Barrioquinto, Zeus Bascon, Lawrence Borsoto, Con Cabrera, Buen Calubayan, Ronald Caringal, Clint Catalan, Mideo Cruz, Rai Cruz, Alfredo Esquillo, Joey Ibay, Pocholo Goitia, Lindslee, Michelle Pauline Lim, Meneer Marcelo, Leobensant Marquez, Marcushiro Nada, J. Pacena II, Epjey Pacheco, Oliver Ramos, Iggy Rodriguez, Ivan Roxas, CJ Tañedo, Jose Tence Ruiz, Joseph Saguid, Mark Salvatus, Team Manila, Jomike Tejido, Wesley Valenzuela, Lydia Velasco, Ronald Ventura, Costantino Zicarelli.

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