The Objects of Our Idolatry

BY MADS BAJARIAS | There is no way to describe in words a piece of performance art without losing something in the process. A performance ("action" or "intervention") is a visceral experience which goes beyond the limitations of written language. Performance art is born out of a defiance of conventional wisdom, of compartmentalized logic, of herd mentality. This elusive quality makes performance art potentially the most subversive of the art forms.

Let me try to explain anyway.
Mideo M. Cruz's "Sanctification" comes out of his ongoing explorations about the mutability of icons—from mystical/religious icons to modern-day consumerist idols.

In "Sanctification," Cruz wants us think more deeply about the objects of our idolatry. What is the nature of our gods? Why are they worthy of our love? Is it possible to be tricked into belief? Does faith evolve into something transcendent, or does it mask a relationship founded on deceit?
If we are defined by the things we worship, what kind of creatures are we? These are just a few of the questions that "Sanctification" provokes.

Cruz was kind enough to answer a few questions of our own.

Tell us about the ideas in your performance "Sanctification."

MC: I'm doing a series on the idea of the transmutation of the deity as man had created it, starting from the primitive idols to the more recent "idols" of the branded/consumerist culture. "Sanctification" is one of the creative results of my investigation.

The manner with which I put on a performance comes from an effort to stimulate all possible human faculties to express my point. The trigger for the ideas comes from my Catholic upbringing and how religion is the people's opium (to paraphrase Karl Marx).

Just curious, how come you replaced the Mickey mask with the Coca-cola ears?

MC: The Mickey mask is an earlier work in the Sambalikhaan grounds in Quezon City. The Coca-cola ears is the latest transmutation.

Where and when have you performed "Sanctification"?

MC: I've already shown it in many places. As far as I can remember: in the Sambalikhaan grounds in Quezon City, in front of Malate Catholic Church and Rajah Soliman park in Manila, in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, in an artists' village in Taipei, and right after the Holy Friday procession in Assemeni, Sardinia, Italy.

What reaction have to received from conservative crowds?

MC: Although I always try to get peoples' reactions to my works, it's hard to analyze the real impact. For sure there is a "shock value" which I intend as a way to free up my audience members' imaginations. Aside from a form of entertainment, the "shock value" of the work forces people to think more deeply about the ideas that I'm trying to put across in my performance. Like psychiatrists, we need different tools to open people's minds.

I remember in Italy, a Jewish artist-friend tried to warn me not to do anything during the Holy Friday Mass. My sponsor also tried to persuade me not to do my action during the Holy Friday procession. But I did it, and while I was doing it I saw some people make the sign of the cross. The other artists left laughing.

I once exhibited a related work in Ateneo de Manila University where bishops are trained. A priest there said that my work was a sort of warning to them.

Have you stopped doing "Sanctification"?

MC: I'm still doing it. It really depends on the situation where I need to show it. And I keep doing other works related to "Sanctification" in my ongoing exploration into religious icon transmutations. There are many other ideas swirling in my head and I just need time and space to produce them.

What attracted you to performance art?

MC: The idea of a more clear communication between the creator and the audience. Like what I said, I intend to open people's imaginations. In my attempts to stimulate all their faculties I might get their attention. And this form of action is just one of the ways to do it.

Thank you Mideo.

[Photos are from Mideo M. Cruz's website and ARAIart.jp]

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