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November 7, 2007

You be the judge. Is this mural really bastardized? Why did the NPC change it?

You be the judge. Is this mural really bastardized? Why did the NPC change it?

It – the unusual silence of some journalists in regard to the issue of the “bastardized” mural at the erstwhile principled National (IM)Press Club— is understandable. But what is unreasonable is the effort of some people in the NPC to dismiss the “bastardization” as a non-issue.

There’s only one school of thought when it comes to the work of art, when it comes to the fruits of wisdom of and the products of the ingenuity of man. Such a school of thought mandates that man’s work should not be changed, diminished, or substantially altered without the consent of its creator – and this particularly applies to achievements attributable to man’s unique talent, skills and inventiveness.

Artists are sensitive, they say. One becomes sensitive when he knows that what he has created represents the value of his person and his work. One becomes sensitive when he is selfishly aware that what he has done is moral. Sense and sensibility signify reason.

Those who think that the “bastardization” of the mural, which depicts the present political system and a clearer picture of the country’s journalism minus the apathy of some people who don’t deserve to be called journalists, only advertise their being ignorant of reason for they have already forgone the meanings of sense, intellect and self-respect.

The two so-called “schools of thought” supposedly posited by the NPC to justify its “bastardization” of that controversial mural created by Neo-Angono Artists Collective, are just a recitation of the usual transaction that binds the two interested parties in this case— the client and the artists.

The first school of thought, according to the NPC, is the traditional concept of “commissioned art wherein an artist is paid by someone to create a piece of art without guidelines”, while the second is the concept of “work-for-hire” which, the commission itself admits, acknowledges the provisions of the Intellectual Property Law.

It was argued that the second applies to the artist-client relationship forged by the NPC and the Neo-Angono Arists, thus the former has “all rights to the work — including the right to destroy it if it so wishes.”

The argument is illogical, and bereft of any moral code.

By what right? – what standard? –what code? The NPC and its squatters (well, according to the few remaining responsible journalists in these parts), based on the argument they have adduced, are simply unaware of the fact that the artist-client relationship had been established by the time the NPC officers accepted the mural. That if they didn’t like the concept then they should have returned the mural to its creators or demand that changes be made. Instead, the NPC, after they were reminded by the PSG of the mural’s leftist motif, unilaterally changed, altered or “bastardized” it sans the consent of its creators.

Why is it that the people who should be more concerned about issues of censorship, press freedom and the sanctity of man’s work are the ones who betray reason? Well, it is really true that man usually becomes a bad judge when his interest is at stake.

The NPC also used the Rockefeller-Rivera case to validate its obviously immoral decision and conduct, only to find out later that the 1933 case is as good as a blank check. The European painter, Diego Rivera, included the face of former head of USSR Vladimir Lenin in the controversial painting. In the example given, Nelson Rockefeller felt betrayed and protested when he saw the painting, and strongly demanded that the face of Lenin be changed. Rivera refused to revise the painting, therefore, the rich businessman-politician had no choice but to destroy it. In the instant case, the NPC neither protested nor demanded that the mural be modified by its creators. Only that the protest came from some shadowy people at the Malacañang Palace who accompanied the President during her visit at the NPC.

What’s funny is that the protest did not arise from the client, but from some people invited to witness the unveiling of the controversial mural. Thus, the example given by the NPC does not, in any manner or in any way, apply to the instant case.

Logic and reason – these are the binding principles in this case. The NPC officers might have forgotten that what their money had paid was just the physical thing or the mural itself, but not the conceptual aspect of it otherwise known as copyright. NPC officers’ argument of ownership on account of “money” shows their high regard for power, but it clearly shows their low regard for their work as (so-called) journalists.

Argument represents man’s brain. Without any tinge of doubt the argument presented by some people at the NPC is faulty and beyond the realm of reason. Their reasoningreally shows what the formerly principled NPC has become.

The following is the summarized statement of the National Press Club on the issue of the “bastardized” NPC mural:

1. First, that this is not an issue about “censorship. ” The term does not apply. And the NPC denounces any allegations that this concerns “censorship. ”
2. As far as “comissioned art” is concerned, there are two generally accepted schools of thought: (a) the traditional concept of commissioned art is where an artist is paid by someone to create a piece of art without guidelines. (b) the concept of “work-for-hire, ” an acknowledged term in intellectual property. The terms usually also gives the one who issues the commission all rights to the work — including the right to destroy it if he or she so wishes.
3. The painting commissioned by the NPC falls under the second school of thought.
4. The artists were given directions, descriptions, and instructions on what the painting should and should not contain —among them, first, that it should have no ideological undertones or overtones of whatever nature — the reason being that press freedom transcends/rises above any and all ideologies, and second, that personalities are to be limited and living ones to be avoided for the same reason that press freedom transcends personalities and individuals.
5. The painting should depict the struggle for freedom of expression, especially during the priod of martial law.
6. These directions were violated.

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