Ugat Pilipino: Filipino Roots (banner)
Region: North America
Medium: Public Art
Artist: Grupo de Gago
Confronting Bodies: L.A. city officials and employees
Dates of Action: 1993
Location: Los Angeles, California
Description of Artwork: Five Filipino artist, who call themselves Grupo de Gago, created a twelve-foot banner to announce the annual Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture, entitled Ugat Pilipino: Filipino Roots. The work, which includes a dog roasting on a spit labeled "This is America" with a swastika for a handle, a monkey, a rosary, a Star of David, and the festival sponsors' names, was hung in the Los Angeles City Hall rotunda near several other paintings and sculptures, some of which depict images of female genitalia.
The Incident: Three days following the opening of the exhibit, city cultural affairs head Adolfo Nodal began receiving complaints from building employees claiming the banner was racist, promoted stereotypes of Filipinos as dog-eaters and monkeys, and displayed unnecessary cruelty to animals. Nodal had the banner removed, claiming it was not artwork but rather an informational sign promoting an event.
Results of Incident: In a statement the artists claimed the banner was political expression, and as a result, Nodal agreed to reinstall the banner, organized a public forum to discuss the controversy, and requested that the festival committee be present at the exhibit at all times to "insure informed dialogue between artist, the committee and the public." The reinstalled banner was modified by the artists during the controversy, and the roasting dog was replaced with a smiling dog leaping into a swimming pool, as a man in the background barbecues on a grill. Three works in the exhibit with female genitalia were replaced with cartoon characters.
Source: Artistic Freedom Under Attack 1994