05 March 2021 > 31 March 2021 Kindly invited to visit "To jest wojna//This Is War - A Selection of Protest Posters of the All-Polish Women's Strike"exhibition, on Friday, 5th March from 11 a.m. till Friday, 26th March. The exhibition is a part of 22nd International Feminist & Queer Festival Red Dawns.
The exhibition is also set up in the virtual gallery of the online portal spol.si.
The main exhibition of the Red Dawns festival in the Alkatraz Gallery will feature the latest works of Polish artists of different generations, which were made in support of the protests against additional curtailment of the already limited right to abortion. The selected works include predominantly art posters in various techniques, which were used with a clear political message against the decision of the Polish Constitutional Court. Mass protests in Poland lasted for two weeks in October and November 2020, and they temporarily postponed the publication of the Constitutional Court's decision. However, on 27 January 2021, the decision of the Constitutional Court was entered in the Official Gazette, and so the law officially came into force. Thus, In Poland now 'abortion is only allowed if health and life of the mother are endangered and if there is a reasonable suspicion that the pregnancy is a result of incest or rape'. Despite measures to contain coronavirus, protesters again took to the streets. Poland has had one of the strictest laws that limit the right to abortion since 1993, the power of the Catholic Church is enormous, and the political power has been in the hands of conservative right for many years. Lately, Poland is making a number of conservative political decisions, such as the establishment of 'areas without LGBT ideologies' and the exit from the Istanbul Convention. In light of this, the decision of the Constitutional Court is just another in the series of decisions that infringe women's* rights. Protests against far-right conservative policies have taken place several times in recent years, but without wider public support. This time, the protests are therefore a peculiarity, filling us with hope, as despite the situation with Covid-19, millions of people took part.
The protests marked by the slogans: wypierdalać (fuck off), jebać PiS (fuck PiS), to jest wojna (this is war), piekło kobiet (hell for women), inspired numerous Polish artists. The Red Dawns team recognizes their contribution to community building in the resistance against patriarchal oppression through visual art, which, as always, proves to be an incredible connecting moment. The majority of the invited artists made their works publicly available, so that protesters could download, print, and use them at protests. All works — from the now globally recognisable lighting bolt symbol, which was designed for the first protest in 2016 by Ola Jasionowska — to clothes hangers, black umbrellas, female bodies, and resistance slogans, express ideas of community, solidarity, and resistance to the violence of patriarchal ruling elites.
The others who are exhibiting their posters in the Alkatraz Gallery are Dagmara Skwarska, Agata Królak, Karolina Brzuszek and Anna Kniejewska. Zuzanna Stach presents herself with the only animation entitled Boję się (I'm afraid), which convincingly depicts the feelings of fear and sadness in an effective and compact format. What connects the works is the motif of lightning bolt, either as a symbol for vulva by Karolina Brzuszek, as a part of a torso with a knee lifted into a furious protest against the violence against women by Agata Królak, or as a part of a hint at an explosion of a vessel (for giving birth) as a metaphor for woman's body by Anna Kniejewska. The only artist that in her exhibited work, formally (but certainly in terms of content) does not include the lightning bolt, is Dagmara Skwarska, who places the stretched middle finger in front of a stylized, spread intimate area. By doing so, she communicates that women's bodies are not a collective possession of any ideology, state, or anything or anyone else than women themselves. Regarding the situation in Poland,  which seems closer to us than ever, Ola Jasionowska describes how right-wing narratives attribute fascist connotations to feminists and LGBTQIA population and initiatives, and emphasises that labelling people that fight for human rights (including the rights of minorities and women*) as fascists is at the same time stupid and cruel. Namely, the lighting bolt represents the movement with values that are diametrically opposite to fascism; its main message is freedom.
In their works, the artists also play with colours associated with Polish national symbols, and highlight the discrepancy between the state policy and human (women's) rights it was supposed to represent. The artists who present different generations at the exhibition (from students to established artists) and embody different, but sophisticated artistic and aesthetic approaches, have entered a political fight that creates a common visual image on the basis of the feminist slogan personal is political. This fight is in its diversity and frequency stronger that its individual parts. The works of the exhibited artists express the complexity of resistance process both on the personal and collective level, embody personal feelings of sadness, fear and raw anger, but at the same time, transcend intimate feelings into humble, yet solid optimism with the background idea of community and solidarity. The latter is already indicated by their intentionally publicly accessible poster art, available for the purposes of reproduction and use in protesting actions, both physically and on social media.
Polish experience clearly demonstrates how the fight for rights, also basic human rights, is a long process. In this fight, small victories of the masses are of paramount importance, but they never signify the final victory and the end of the process. Namely, those in power always have plenty of resources and time at their disposal to start denying and violating them in the moments when we are most vulnerable, as it is visible nowadays while the pandemic is being abused for gross violation of human rights.
Lucija Zajc, Eva Jus, Saša Nemec, Ana Grobler, Tamara Klavžar