Polish Artwork Exhibition Defies Breaking Off Tradition, However Some See Racism | Leisure information

By VANESSA GERA, Associated Press

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – An exhibition at a Polish state museum that opens on Friday is showing the work of provocative artists in a celebration that the organizers use as a celebration of free speech and a challenge to political correctness and the “culture of demolition” in the denote political left.

However, some critics accuse the organizers of giving anti-Semitic, racist and Islamophobic messages a platform under the pretext of defending freedom of expression.

“Political Art”, which shows the works of almost 30 artists, is the second exhibition in the Center for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle under the direction of Piotr Bernatowicz. He was appointed by the populist-conservative ruling party of Poland in 2019.

Since taking power in 2015, the Law and Justice party has used the country’s cultural institutions to promote conservative and patriotic values ​​- including the arts center in a reconstructed castle, experimental and avant-garde art in Warsaw for 30 years.

Political cartoons about world leaders

Political cartoons

The museum says the Political Art exhibit provides a space for rebellious artists who are sometimes shunned elsewhere.

Most controversial is Dan Park, a Swedish provocateur who was jailed in Sweden for hate crimes. In 2009, Park placed swastikas and boxes labeled “Zyklon B” – the gas used in the mass murder of Jews and others during the Holocaust – in front of a Jewish community center in Malmo.

A spokesman for Malmö’s Jewish community, Fredrik Sieradzki, recalled the artist’s actions 12 years ago as “disgusting and deeply offensive” and told The Associated Press that they were “targeting a community that has already been threatened by various groups” .

The Jewish community in Poland has vigorously protested the museum’s decision to include the park in the new exhibition. In an open letter to the museum director, rabbis and other Jewish officials argued that promoting such artists offends everyone in a country where 6 million Polish citizens – half of them Jews and half of them Christian Poles – were killed during World War II.

Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich argued that it is “bad to display such art”.

“Freedom of expression is essential to a democratic society, but freedom of expression still has limits. That limit is when you are trying to inspire someone to hurt others. This art conspires to hurt others, ”Schudrich told the AP on Friday.

Park’s works shown in Warsaw include a poster that Anders Behring Breivik, the right-wing extremist who killed 77 people in double attacks in Norway, is presenting as a model for the Lacoste clothing brand.

Another provocateur is Uwe Max Jensen, a Danish artist with right-wing views. His performances included urinating and feces on objects and walking around naked. He has several allegations of vandalism.

Jensen brought a large flag to Warsaw, which consisted of four smaller LGBT Pride flags angled into a swastika. He said it was his way of protesting the taboo of criticizing the gay rights movement. Jensen told the AP on Wednesday that the flag was apparently so controversial that Facebook removed a picture of it and he still didn’t know if his creation would be included on the Castle Center show.

The new exhibition also shows the work of Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who lives under police protection for drawing a dog with the head of the Prophet Muhammad. The drawing rocked many Muslims in 2007 and resulted in Vilk’s death threats from extremists.

Also included in Political Art is a wall with photos of Ugandan villagers holding up ID cards. It is part of a project by Danish concept artist Kristian von Hornsleth, who in 2006 convinced 340 Ugandan villagers to legally change their name to Hornsleth in exchange for pigs and goats. The Ugandan government then condemned the project as degrading and racist.

An anti-fascist network in Poland criticized “Political Art” and accused the curators of using democratic principles such as freedom of expression “to spread and justify right-wing hate speech”. In a statement, the Anti-Fascist Year argued that including the more problematic artists would serve to “strengthen the electoral prospects of authoritarian parties everywhere”.

Co-curator Jon Eirik Lundberg, a Norwegian who runs the Laesoe Kunsthal gallery in Denmark, denied the exhibition promotes racism, saying its goal is to fight for freedom of expression in defense of democracy.

“If you don’t have freedom of expression, you don’t have political freedom. If you don’t have political freedom, you have no protection, “he told the AP.” So the best way to protect a minority is to make sure there is free speech. “

Lundberg said he also strongly opposes that the featured works of art are labeled as “right-wing”, a term that negates the possibility of dialogue.

Hornsleth, the artist who photographed Ugandan villages, added, “Even if this show was right and wacky, it should be allowed because it is art. But it’s not like that – it’s really about creating a space in which everyone can disagree about anything. “

“Political Art” runs until January 16.

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