[artinfo] Open letter concerning the conviction of Dorota Nieznalska

Piotr Rypson rypson at mindworx.com.pl
Mon Jul 28 15:50:25 CEST 2003

Dear Friends and collegues,

art in Poland is facing a lot of pressures and attempts of censorship by 
public, cleric and corporate bodies. But the court case against Dorota 
Nieznalska is extremely dangerous as it sets up a precedent of consoring 
art and artists by courts.

I strongly urge you to sign this letter or just say that you agree to add 
your name to the list -  and send it back to 
<mailto:wyspa_mode at wp.pl>wyspa_mode at wp.pl .

With best regards,

Piotr Rypson

Dear Friends,
below you will find the description of the court case against artist 
Nieznalska and a reproduction of the piece - so you can get a closer 
picture of what happened.
best regards,
dr Piotr Rypson
mindworx Polska
tel. (+4822) 828 86 51
fax (+4822) 826 36 36
www.e-dukacja.com.pl ----- Original Message ----- From: Aneta Szy³ak
To: Piotr Rypson
Sent: Monday, July 28, 2003 1:35 PM
Subject: Wysy³anie wiadomo¶ci e-mail: Pasja Nieznalska
Below is the desciption of her work and the context of conflict. It is the 
fragment of my text just published in n.paradoxa. A week ago Nieznalska was 
sentenced guilty of the violence of the religious feelings. The charge is 6 
months of limited freedom (she won't be able to travel outside of Gdansk) 
and has to work for some charity organization. We has to cover the entire 
cost of the lawsuit. She does not have any money to do so. The are trying 
to defend her due to the civic consitutional rights, such as freedom of 
speech and the freedom of the artistic expression. Attached is the image of 
the work. More information you can find at www.hysterics.art.pl or 
www.spam.art.pl/Nieznalska . Please do not hesitate to contact us if you 
have any questions.
Best regards,
Aneta Szylak
Nieznalska who exhibited her new work Passion (2001) at the Wyspa Gallery 
in Gdansk was accused for the violence of religious feelings and recently 
is having a lawsuit with the right wing nationalist party called the Polish 
Families, League that brought the charge to a public prosecutor. The party 
and its youth called Mlodziez Wszechpolska (All-Poland Youth) announced a 
countrywide crusade against the art targeting the religious symbols and 
chasing not only the artists, but also everyone who is carrying the mark of 
the Other.
But what really happened? The installation Passion consists of two 
elements: the object in for of the Greek cross made of metal, suspended 
from the ceiling, and covered in its front by the color photo of men’s 
tights, hips and genitals. The cross is exposed on the silent, single 
channel video projection of the face of the man lifting weights in the 
background. Filmed overhead, he shows to the spectator only his head and 
shoulders. We can see the grimace of torment on his face. It would be hard 
to realized without written information, what this person is doing at the 
moment – the feeling of torment may come from some other kind of activity.
Since her study time Nieznalska for years has been interested in the 
cultural model of masculinity and the impact of Catholic religion in 
implementing this phenomenon She explored from the gendered perspective the 
Biblical myths of Adam and the original sin in Vitium Originis and 
Absolution (1999), discussed the control over the body in contemporary 
consumerist culture in Female and Omnipotence. Gender: Male (2000), 
searched for antic models of masculine sexuality in Potency and drawn the 
portrait of statistic rapist in Modus Operandi (1998). The subversive power 
of her art lies down in applying gender categories to Christian religion, 
observed here more as cultural paradigm than system of belief. Nieznalska 
is investigating the plots of control, discipline, guilt, punishment and an 
unspoken pains and pleasures of victimization. As we can realize from her 
works, she sees both women and men as the victims of cultural taming, not 
even fully able to define the origins of torment they willingly expose 
themselves to. She looks for the roots of it a voluntary self-sacrifice in 
the basis of our civilization.
The charge in the court concerns the juxtaposition of the form of cross the 
Polish Families League recuperates as only religious symbol they want to 
protect with the representation of men’s genitals, considered as an offense 
of religious feelings. The opponents of Nieznalska, among them many women 
were arguing, that the woman should not use a picture of men’s genitals, 
still one of the most forbidden images. “Shame on you” they were 
screaming”. Some of them were very caring: “I am sorry for you, you must be 
mentally ill”. In the Internet discussion many activists of Mlodziez 
Wszechpolska, including acting member of the City Council of Gdansk, 
suggested the exemplary punishments that should be performed on the 
artists, including shaving a head (like those who slept with the Nazis 
during WW II) and a group rape. This shocking opinions sound familiar to 
those who observe Polish art scene. In 1999 one conservative male 
publicists also known as Christian mystical poet suggested, that Katarzyna 
Kozyra should be punished by the public flogging and shut down in prison. 
Although also male artists were strongly attacked both by politicians and 
critics but only women were considered such humiliating and sexually 
dependent way.

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