Monday, November 12, 2007

Art Abstractions

Picasso may not be the best artist to commission a portrait of oneself. Unless you are Chuckie (Child's Play 1988), Chaka Doll (Kakabakaboo), Michael Jackson (Thriller) and anything would be better than your face.

That aside, the National Press Club of the Philippines recently commissioned a work from the Neo-Angono Artist Collective (NAAC) for a mural that is supposed to depict press freedom. The issue came up when the artwork was recently unveiled with some noticeable changes to the painting.

At this point, NAAC complained that censorship was the root cause of the alterations (click on the link to view the changes) so as not to "embarass" President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (PGMA) when she unvelied the mural in a ceremony held at the office of the NPC. The mural is supposed to be 8 X 32 feet and I had an image of PGMA who stands barely less than 5 feet (add two or three inches for heels) on tip toes trying to remove the covers of the mural.

So much has been said about this topic, the most common denominator is that NAAC is crying that this is a curtailment of press freedom and artistic expression.

Bottom line is, if you asked for a painting of a flower and got a wreathe for the dead you'd probably want to change it the way YOU want it - specially if you paid an exorbitant amount similar to flower prices going up during All Saints.

I believe in press freedom and artistic expression, but let us put this in REAL perspective: the transaction is a “COMMERCIAL” exchange where the NAAC got paid for Php900T to finish the artwork. NPC is the client and they held rights for the theme and the way they want their mural done – it is not consequential whether they want something profound, hideous, ugly, deep, safe or some other esoteric mumbo jumbo type of theme for the mural.

I would understand if NAAC did this for “free” or made this “Art” as a donation and NPC made some alterations.

NPC can burn the mural if they want to and NAAC doesn’t have any legal rights to whatever NPC does to the material after it was delivered – the fact that NAAC did not show up for a meeting to discuss changes is already unprofessional. If NAAC wanted to retain creative “control” over the material, they should have made arrangements for some legal agreements prior to executing the work. As it is, NPC was very particular about their request that the theme be made APOLITICAL – e.g. “politically neutral”, instead the mural showed all the current slogans in all of the hastily organized street protest by every other POLITICALLY inclined ex-president, organization, party, individual, president-wanna-be etc. It would have cost NPC much less than Php900T by easily getting all the placards and putting up a collage and passed it off as a mural.

With all of the issues facing the country I am sure that PGMA and the NPC have much bigger and more serious issues to attend to rather than react to a group that is using the same MEDIA to gain leverage to promote a political agenda. It seems that taking potshots at the president is the current rage.

Here’s a challenge – why not return the 900T and ask for the mural to be returned to NAAC? I am sure they can find a buyer who can display it in the next street protest, last time I checked Lim already allowed protesters to use Mendiola. Honestly though, NPC should charge NAAC for media and advertising charges as this story has gotten more than its fair share of free exposure. As it is, NPC owns the mural. Period. Exclamation Point.

It seems unlikely that NPC had enough time to commission another painter to do a mural just when PGMA is set to do the unveiling. They could probably replace the whole mural with a single black dot with a huge white background and leave PGMA to interpret it any which way she wants. Except that she might take it as a potshot at her famous mole-on-cheek.

Hey, she's not called Mole of Asia for nothing.

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