Statement of The Anti-Fascist Year regarding the exhibition “Politcal Art” in the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art

Warsaw August 25th, 2021
As a network devoted to stemming the wave of neofascist hate-speech, the Antifascist Year unwaveringly condemns the attempts to use Polish art institutions to platform artists infamous for their neo-Nazi sympathies.

The exhibition “Political Art”, to be opened in the CCA Ujazdowski Castle on the 27th of August, is curated by the director of the CCA Piotr Bernatowicz and Jon Eirik Lundberg. It will feature the works of art by, among many others, Dan Park and Uwe-Max Jensen, who are open advocates of the extreme right. The curators instrumentalise the notions of the freedom of speech, democracy and tolerance, to convey and justify right wing hate speech.

This project is an exhibit of shameless hypocrisy. The same director, who in March 2020 censored the seminar series of the Anti-fascist Year, now projects himself as a freedom fighter. But only a year ago, he did not think that the CCA under his directorship was a good place to discuss classical texts devoted to the critique of Nazism and antisemitism. Actually, it is not that surprising, as critical theory is a tool at our disposal to tear through the veil of alt-right newspeak that is essential to his position. That is why his project started with censoring this critical legacy, diminishing it as a “cultural Marxism”, a clickbait claim that is – also unsurprisingly – part of the repertoire of Nazi propaganda.

The exhibition „Political art”, features a couple of artists that – under the pretence of nonconformist critical art – spin antimigrant, homophobic and racist rhetoric that serves to strengthen electoral prospects of authoritarian parties everywhere. In Poland, this rhetoric shores up the support of the current ruling party, and is eagerly adopted as the dominant party line. Thus, the curators dwell in the meandering of doublethink. For them, freedom of speech is an excuse to voice hate against minorities that are too weak to defend themselves. In a country like Poland, an alt-righter can easily dehumanise minorities without any fear of retribution, as minorities are not protected by the state, church, nor any moral majority. At the same time, this three-headed hydra is happy to censor and condemn anything that undermines their own claims for total authority – silencing voices for migrants, women, and LGBT+ rights. In contrast, people who parade neofascist symbols in both urban and digital space are encouraged instead of being persecuted.

Thus their claims for nonconformism are simply laughable. The clowns of the alt-right are not freedom fighters.They are apparatchiks supported by the power of the state. Their projects are not sanctuaries of freedom, but central tenets of nationalist cultural policies; the aim of which is to destroy their opponents and rearrange social space in accordance with their own limited horizons. The officials censor documentary photographs of the Women’s Strike but welcome people like Park, a Hitler-idoliser, Breivik-sympathiser, Holocaust denier, who frequents neo-Nazi gatherings in Sweden, Denmark and Hungary. Or like Jensen – with a tendency to flash his intimate parts in support of the Danish extreme right party Stram Kurs. The curators share a conviction that painting a swastika or a performance of kicking the Koran are amazing works by marginalised artists.

Their struggles against “political correctness” are domesticated, never crossing the boundaries set by the fragile sentiments of Polish Catholics. Interestingly both Park and Jensen have produced artworks highly critical of Catholic clergy, but it would be really surprising if these were featured in the exhibition in Warsaw. It is much easier to exhibit something that their political patrons find less controversial, and enjoy the protection of police, the attention of state-owned media, and the blessings of the minister.