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“Brouhaha” is a nonsensical word used to describe nonsense.  In the case of Carlo J. Caparas (and, by extension, Cecile Guidote-Alvarez), that word is fairly adequate.

Let’s consider these interesting bullet-points first:

  • Caparas’ defense: In a GMA-7 News report, Caparas says that he “deserves” the honor of the National Artist distinction.  Caparas, in an attempt to massacre the allegations that he does not deserve the accolade, likened his victory to a political one.
  • Apologia from a commenter: An interesting series of comments in my previous entry managed to result in some healthy debate.  You have BrianB’s apologia for Caparas, and you have CR’s criticism of Caparas.  Makes for an interesting read, really.
  • Ricky Lo’s apologetics: Ricky Lo wrote a very interesting column in the August 4 issue of The Philippine STAR where he enumerates a list of reasons why Caparas deserves the honor.  Among others, a street named after him in Pasig, and the volumes of works he collaborated with and churned out.
  • Butch Dalisay’s shoot: Butch Dalisay’s interesting counterpoint came a day earlier, where he points out that the flawed process – and by extension the selection of Caparas – should be decried on the basis that the machinations of a flawed culture are in action.  Dalisay emphasizes a very important point: that a transparent and respectable selection process should be within the bounds of taste.

Let’s keep those bullet-points in mind.

The brouhaha over Caparas’ induction is not a matter of form – one he lacks given the caliber of his visual art – but a matter of substance. The anger over his proclamation as a National Artist is not a matter of strokes, but a matter of stroke. Had this been a matter of one of the many awards and honors passed around the community of the arts, there would be no problem.  We are talking here about the honorific of “National Artist:” that the persons we are elevating to the pedestal as a vanguard of the arts should represent our country’s art, and the artists who live, breathe, and sleep that art.  Yet both Lo and Dalisay point it out clearly anyway: decisions as important as who we should elevate to the status of National Artist are never made by people who are not distinguished and not discerning.

If we’re talking about contests like say, literary or comics competitions, then we can just set this argument aside as a case of sour-graping.  Some people will sourgrape, for example, if they don’t win a Palanca, making defenses out of things like poetics and “show-not-tell.”  I’ve seen artists throw tantrums when they lose poster-making contests, and I’ve seen people stop writing when they lost an essay-writing contest.  Trust me, I’ve been there.  Then again, life goes on.  I continue writing.  I’ll get my recognition one day if that’s what I’m after, but I’m not compiling a body of work for the sake of a contest.

Yet the National Artist distinction is not a contest; it is a way of appreciation by the biggest patron of art – the State – to its artists, to confer upon them what is due them, no matter how modest it may be.  If an artist chooses to trivialize the artistic output of his peers that can be only validated through the profanity of a contest, then it is his prerogative.  Yet artists should always stand for that one sacred thing: taste, the thing inherent in a work to be called “art.”

I’m not denying or decrying Caparas’ place in komiks; among many names, Carlo J. Caparas is responsible for a movement towards popular literature.  If we seek to reward him for this achievement in his lifetime, then we should.  What is happening here, ladies and gentlemen, is the questioning of the artistic output of a person at the moment he’s being handed over the distinction of “National Artist.”  More than that, this comes at the expense of people who have been struck out of a shortlist to accommodate them.  There is nothing tasteful about that, and there is nothing artistic about that.  It’s like Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ,” without the meaning and emotions it evokes: it’s a crucifix in a jar of piss.

If anything, the sight of a bumbling, ranting Caparas defending his “art,” even if he has already received the distinction, is a piece of string he has to dangle in front of everyone’s faces, proclaiming he deserves it.  That while the National Artist distinction should be protected, it can only be protected by a transparent process that seeks to establish the State as a patron of art, not as an example of the patronage that comes with artistry.

I’d like to talk about how the private sector can be patrons of art and restore respectability to the National Artist honors, but this entry is getting too long.

In Dalisay’s column, he writes: “At the very core of things, no true artist needs an award, especially one granted by a government whose credibility and sincerity many artists will or should find trouble with.”  While my prose may not be as elegant as his own, I’d simply like to add this: an artist who defends his award in his lifetime, suffers the tragedy of defending that award for the rest of his life.

4 comments on “Massacred”

  1. Reply

    i think this is more about whether capara qualifies for the specific award and not whether he deserves it.

    from what i’ve heard and read caparas was proclaimed a national artist for visual arts presumably for his supposed komiks work.

    the important phrase here is “visual arts.” again, based on what i heard and read, caparas was given the honor for output/works of which he was not the visual artist/illustrator but the story writer. if this is what really happened then it becomes painfully clear that caparas does not qualify for the title.

    some quarters are saying caparas should have instead been considered for the literature category. now that’s another matter, one that should put more emphasis on the issue of whether or not he is deserving.

    incidentally i also read somewhere that the award given to him was for visual arts and film. again this is really suspect considering that most of caparas’ film work can only be considered as B-movies if not straight-to-video type projects.
    of course that’s just my opinion. as we all know art appreciation is also relative.

    what has become clear though is that as a person caparas is lacking in class. considering the controversy arising from this, he should have just surrendered the award. instead, he not only held onto to it he also dismissed the views of his “peers.” by his own admission, caparas is giving more credence to the opinion of pgma, the one who included him in the list of awardees.

    i’m not sure if caparas is in dire financial straits but i can’t help to think this may also have to do with the perks and benefits that comes with a national artist title. i find this disturbing. pardon me for naivete on this matter but i still hold the romantic ideal that true ‘artists’ don’t really give a shit about such matters as perks and benefits.

    in any case, caparas is really in a class of his own.

    1. Reply

      Yep, all a matter of taste. Idk about “true artists” – we all need the money – but again, no “true artist” indeed is in need of an award. the matter of deserving things is another question; giving due cred to the work of others. in a field like komiks and film, which is collaborative, it just bordered on bad taste to promote yourself without acknowledging where you stand: the shoulders of giants. but that’s just me.

    • October 4, 2009

    bakit true artist naman sila eh.. they are desrving..

  2. Reply

    Yo… say what?

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