Agata Kulesza: Stop Censoring Art!

Model Activism EML Poland

Agata Kulesza took part in EML and represented Poland in 2016. Now an art school student in Warsaw, she has watched recent events on the art scene unfold in horror. Two scandals have hit the art scene in Poland, sparking protest. First, a top art gallery in Warsaw removed a video by Natalia LL from 1973 titled “Consumer Art” showing a woman eating a banana. The museum director claimed it was upsetting for young people. Second, 51-year-old artist Elzbieta Podlesna was arrested by police for showing a painting known as the Black Madonna of Czestochowa with a rainbow flag in her halo. Agata is shocked that art can be censored in the 21st century. Read below to find out more.

A woman in Poland has been arrested for making the halo on the Virgin Mary of Częstochowa into a rainbow flag.

When I first heard about it, I couldn’t believe it. Unfortunately, Poland isn't a tolerant country which hurts me personally. The rainbow, which was supposed to be a symbol of unity with LGBT+ people, was perceived by some as offensive for religious people. What was supposed to open people's hearts to unity was used to spread hatred and that hurt me the most.

The current party in my country is very conservative.

The leader of the PiS party Jarosław Kaczyński said: “We are dealing with a direct attack on the family and children – the sexualization of children, that entire LBGT movement, gender. They threaten our identity, our nation, its continuation and therefore the Polish state.” PiS consists of very intolerant people. They're against  the ''Warsaw LGBT declaration'' which was signed by the president of Warsaw Rafała Trzaskowskiego for sexual education at school. Pis says that LGBTQ+ people threaten our nation. This political party aims to shape the state in its own way excluding the entire LGBT community from it. It's very noxious to our society, because of the hatred that current political party has for people with a different orientation won't develop our country in any way. 

There was also a controversy recently about a video Consumer Art" by Polish artist Natalia LL showing a woman eating a banana.

I heard about this story because I'm currently attending art school in Warsaw, so I'm closely connected with the art community in Poland. I was very angry about this whole situation. I couldn't believe they decided to remove her art. It was very strange because I have never heard about situation like that before.

The museum director said he was "opposed to showing works that could irritate vulnerable young people".

Natalia's artwork has a very important place in the history of Polish art, so the decision to remove it was frightening. Since the Middle Ages, works of art have shown the human body. A good example is 'David' by Michelangelo or 'Birth of Venus' by Sandro Botticelli. These works have never been accused of irritating vulnerable young people, although they showing the naked human body. Art is supposed to shape sensitivity and inspire people's feelings about the artwork. Viewers should create their own taste or preferences when they see art.

Photo © Instagram

In response, people protested the museum, eating bananas!

I was surprised how many people showed and took part in protest. Sadly I wasn't able to took part in this because I was out of town, but I wrote a post on Instagram about it to support this protest. Lots of people posted pictures with bananas showing support for Natalia's art, with the hashtag #stopcensorship. I think it's great because it shows how many people care about it. Even if they're not from Warsaw and they couldn’t take part in protests, they showed how important this situation was. 

Art should be free to tell the truth

In my opinion it's very important for artist to freely express themselves because the most important thing in artwork is the feelings they inspire in people. If artists can bring real emotions to art, it will be all the more valuable, along with what the artist wanted to achieve. What we understand and feel when we see art helps us to shape our opinions and life experience. 

Art has a special role to play

With serious topics, art can provide a relief from tension, and show the viewer a different viewpoint through free interpretation. Approaching these serious topics through art shows a different side to the argument compared to, say, the media. Art does not show everything literally, it uses many symbols. Works of art shows stories that everyone understands in their own way and can feel in their own way. 

We can create a better future for Poland

Living in Poland, I am proud of all people who had sincerely fought for better times for our country, for everyone to be equal and to be safe. Sadly, by the present party of my country and a lot of people who have a hateful attitude towards many social groups, and it makes living here more difficult. For example, people from the LGBTQ+ community experience all kinds of discrimination, or there are politicians who forbid women to have full rights to decide on their bodies, such as abortion under any circumstances, and it makes me very sad. Despite everything, I really hope that Poland, thanks to a great group of people who are fully tolerant and see the need for change, will come to the point where peace and respect to all people will prevail.

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