An Interview with Mideo Cruz

Mideo Cruz is the artist behind the controversial artworks being exhibited in the Cultural Center of the Philippines. His works have enraged bishops with their supposedly blasphemous content and have made Pro-Life Philippines take up a moral crusade, threatening to sue the CCP and the artist in an effort to censor Mideo Cruz’s freedom of expression for perceived outrages against their faith. What follows is an email interview with the artist. The interview has been edited for grammar and clarity.

Kenneth Keng: Kindly briefly introduce yourself for the benefit of our readership.

Mideo Cruz: I’m a visual artist who commonly tries to cross borders of discipline in producing my works. The most notable work I’ve created in the past is the “banquet” for which I was awarded the Ateneo Art Awards in 2007. I’ve frequently been invited outside the country for my creative works and was awarded the CCP 13 artists awards in 2003. Actually I feel uncomfortable with this question can I just attach my CV?

Could you describe the piece in question?

Mideo Cruz: A wall collage; I started doing it since 2002 from things that I’ve collected since I’m in high school. The manner was practically inspired by what we see in common houses where people put pictures of celebrities, politicians, etc on the wall of their houses.


Relic (cross) originally titled relic of my nation, done in 2004. The making of the Filipinos after several layers of colonization. Partly inspired by how we got the name of the country in paradigm to the monarchal trend of collecting religious relics.

Poon (chirst the king) deconstructing the sacredness and reconstructing the icon with parallel meanings. Coca cola and mickey mouse as epitome of neo liberalism.

Most of the outcry has been about the phallic object placed on the works. Phalluses have been objects of devotion in many cultures; they use them as amulets, symbolic statues, etc. They might be a symbol of power and patriarchy.

What would you say was the general intention of your piece, and how does it fit into your existing body of work?

Mideo Cruz: I’m exploring a lot about the nature of the deity. How people attributed the sacredness. How symbols evolve from various civilizations, how the worship evolves. But this particular piece is more regional and cultural attributing to our psyche as Filipinos. And also pertaining to our aesthetic perception.

How do you feel about the current threat of lawsuit unless your work is taken down?

Mideo Cruz: As far as I know the CCP is an independent institution. An arena where academic discourse is welcome. The conservative interference may be their means of showing their power over the so called morals very similar to what my motivation was in the work. Phallic symbols may stand for power. It contributes more to the readings of my work.

CCP has already organized a public forum on Friday to discuss the matter, but it seems that the CBCP and Pro-life Philippines then responded with an ultimatum for its takedown by Thursday. Have the CBCP or Pro-Life Philippines responded to any of yours or CCP’s invitations for dialogue?

Mideo Cruz: I don’t really know how it is going with the conversation of CBCP and CCP. And im wondering why they don’t want to wait for the dialogue. From their latest pronouncement it sounds like they are also agitating the administration of UST to go against CCP and the artists involved.

And finally, a follow up question that you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. Are you aware of any other “blasphemous” works in the Philippines? If there are, why do you think they targeted your work?

Mideo Cruz: A lot has been done before using the imagery of the catholic faith. In CCP Jose Legaspi did a Madonna and Child with Mary vomiting to the child Jesus, Paul Piper did a Sto. Nino out of a barbie doll and dressed it with comdoms. Alwin Reamillo did a Mckey Mouse Sto. Nino, Louie Cordero did a painting of Christ the King with a McDonald’s figure

With their criticism of the church, do you think El Filibusterismo and Noli Me Tangere are “blasphemous”?

Mideo Cruz: Blasphemy is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t even think of my work as blasphemy; instead, I think of them as a critque but if you will see it as blasphemy, I might as well consider that Rizal’s work is blaspmemy too.

Thanks for your time.



    Why would a SECULAR institution, like UP need to put up a RELIGIOUS institue???

    The institute in question is the Institute of Islamic Studies.

    Would it be fair if UP would put up institutes for other religions too?

    How about,

    Institute for Catholic studies?

    Institute for Christian studies?

    Does it sound right?

    What bothered me most is that freethinkers have BEEN SILENT about this.

    I would welcome any comments/reactions/explanations from the writers here.

  2. Mideo,

    GAwa ka din tungkol sa Islam. Si Mohammed naman gawin mo model.

    dun mo exhibit sa tapat ng Quiapo Mosque.

    Narrow-minded/Unfair ka sa mga Muslims kung di mo gawin ito.

    Meron ka discrimination.

    Dapat sa research mo include mo lahat. di lang R. Catholics.

    • Hello!?
      Narrow-minded/Unfair sa mga Muslims?? I think not.
      its clear that you're the one who's narrow-minded.
      I'm a Christian pero mas may respeto ako sa Muslim kesa sa mga Catholic.
      don't be a hypocrite. Tell me you're not a slave to POP Culture.
      Christians are more susceptible at being slaves to Pop Culture than Muslims.

    • Ang dami nang Dark Sides of Catholicism.
      Pati ung mga idols, relics, statues nila mama mary, mga santo-santita.
      Tsaka mga ritual practices na pagka-pagan. More like a Christianized Paganism.
      In short, polytheistic ang ganyang mga gawain. hence "POLETEISMO"

      Kaya sa Muslim, expected na wala makikitang pictures ni katiting na rebulto dun. Against sila sa Idolatry, so monotheistic sila.

      Sabi nga sa Exodus 20:4
      “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

      Catholicism is a false religion of idolatry, sacramental salvation, and sinful manmade traditions.

  3. The RC was also against the printing press. the bible was something the plebes should never hold.

    The cbcp also has done a good (evil) job covering up the sex abuse in the country as well as similar news from around the world. Good thing they cannot censor the internet. all these sex abuse stories was only made clear mid decade, when the net was now easily accessible to people.

    Also censoring scientific observations and progress. gotta love the medieval-minded church

  4. I went to CCP this afternoon (Aug. 4, 2011) just to see the exhibit for my self. When I was there I did not only look for Mideo's work but I also looked at the other works by other artists on the walls. Then, standing there in the middle of the room, surrounded by art works, something hit me, something that escaped my mind in a long time, and being there reminded me of what it is, that art works are not only meant for self expression but are also for communicating.

    Since that the idea of using art as a means to communicate is running on my mind when I was looking at the works of Mideo I happen to arrive with personal interpretations of them( please understand that these interpretations came to my mind during the time that I was there. It may or may not be how the artist would interpret his works) :

    1. The works are a representation of how the artist looks at a religion, which is brought by foreigners, which has a socio-cultural impact on the present Philippine setting.

    2. People (if we look at the present Philippine cultural set up) have religion, politics, and entertainment ; and sometimes, if not most of the time, mix them together, or compare and contrast them with one another (I got this idea when I was looking at the collage on the walls), and the result is a smorgasbord of different beliefs being served at the choosing masses.

    Everything is open to interpretation, especially art works, since meanings in things are not always perceived at the moment that these things are presented to us. If we are offended by such, it will be best for us to respond after going through a moment, or moments, of thoughtful contemplation as to how we will address the situation. Because if we don't, we will only end up doing something conceivably stupid, like vandalism or destruction of property, which is criminal in nature.

  5. Censorship is practically a Catholic tradition:

    "The long history of Church censorship began in Michelangelo’s own time when Pope Julius II (1503-1513) commissioned the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Scandalized by the unclothed figures, Pope Julius II attempted to force Michelangelo to repaint the religious figures and cover their nakedness.

    Pope Innocent X (1644-1655) started the original fig-leaf campaign, chiseling the exposed phalluses off Roman statues and fitting each sculpture with a more ‘modest’ leaf. The systematically defacing of art for religion continued through Pope Pius IX (1846-1878)."

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