Religion is the opium of the people, 2006

wall painting, 170 cm x apprx. 160 cm

Contemporary Art Centre - Kronika, Polen

(a show in reaction to an act of censorship - see the letter from the director of the art center below)




first letter received:

"Art in the service of lefites? or: no news is good news"
23.06 - 8.07.2006
Project curated by Sebastian Cichocki
Contemporary Art Centre - Kronika,
Rynek 26, Bytom

"Art in the service of lefties, or: no news is good news"
Kronika, Bytom (Poland)This is a rapid reaction exhibition. It was not in the plans of gallery
two weeks ago. It will be overwritten on the "Bad News" exhibition
open at Kronika. Its title was inspired by this project's review
in local newspaper, which connected the art presented in the gallery to
"leftist" propaganda.
The question "Art in the service of lefties?" appears at the very
of the text. Our "Bad News" exhibition refers to media hunger for grim
and the most grave scenarios. To everyone's surprise, the exhibition
has become an arena of a media conflict, with the gallery being accused
offending people's religious feelings and leftist "distortion". A
photographic collage by the Czech group Guma Guar (the pope Benedict
XVI is
holding the head of a decapitated Elton John) finds its way to the
cover of
"Zycie Bytomskie" (a local weekly) with a title "The Pope Defiled".
started a well known in Poland chain of events - an anonymous
to the prosecutor's office, open letters, yellow journalism and so on
the case of offending audience's religious feelings by the female
Dorota Nieznalska). Ours is just another case in a series of similar
With a right-wing, populist government currently in power, such
attempts at
censoring contemporary art and gaining control over art institutions
certainly become more frequent.
The upcoming exhibition at Kronika aims at providing commentary and
of this growing tension between "culture makers" and the world of
Polish authorities rarely bother to cover up their appropriating
openly declaring themselves legitimate owners of the public space only
because of having won the majority of votes. Groups of politicians
to various governmental bodies, either local or national, feel
authorized to
appropriate public space on behalf of their electorates and in their
interests. Any manifestations of artists' social commitment are
in the media in terms of leftist rhetoric and seen as declaration of
for one side of the conflict.
On the other hand, the situation makes relations between artists and
curators even more difficult. Any decisions are made under pressure of
artistic circles. What we experience is an extraordinary "terror of
which leads to fear of self censorship. The "Art in the service of
exhibition is to present art of the kind readily welcome by
scandal-mongering media - art operating with easily recognizable
declaring (hypothetical) support for one side of the conflict, using
rhetoric of political manifestos.
This is a kind of "gift" for the local media, intent on stigmatizing
immorality at the town galleries. And the most important thing is: a
is called a spade! But is it? Where is this language of hatred and
going to lead us? What is the character of today's propaganda? Who is
of whom? Who is serving whom?
Any works for the exhibition must be completed in a very limited time
the budget is virtually non-existent. That's why works can be faxed,
e-mailed of sent by registered mail. They are supposed to form a
"depot" of
manifests, declarations, slogans and language traps.
Such instance of writing one exhibition over another might be regarded
as an
act of reaction against public space appropriation attempted by
politicians and the local media. One can also consider: where are we
to end up in a situation where art is unscrupulously censored and
are subject to constant control?


first letter in response to the invitation to participate in this show conncerning censorship:

Christoph Draeger asked me to make something for you concerning censorship. I read your press release and came up with this piece consisting of a famous quote by Karl Marx.
If you have time, please, paint it as large as you can on the wall, (the abstract text and the englilsh translation) - project it and paint it
If you have no time and no money, just print it out and put it on the wall.
If you have no time but a bit of money, please, enlarge the sheet with some kind of a xerox machine or in any other way.

At the origin of your censorship conflict seems to be not the image of the pope but religion as such in a tradition that has marked the last 2000 years of wars and genocides. Given that point of view Karl Marx’s analysis was nothing short of totally right and accurate until this day. Please, let me shortly know with an email that may piece arrived well and is hanging.
Rainer Ganahl


context: (email from: sebastian cichocki / direktor), 7/11/06)

Dear Rainer,
I'd like to thank you very much for participating in the project "Art
in the
service of lefties?". We painted your sentence (it is about 170 cm
exactly in the place where the infamous piece of Guma Guar was shown
pope Benedict XVI is holding
the head of a decapitated Elton John), that made a striking impression
the far-right activist! The show's been widely discussed by
the audience and media, we are expecting a few reviews in art magazines
Polish newspapers. The project seems to be a crucial statement for us
the populist right-wing government is trying to limit our freedom to be
ourselves. As we saw during the panel discussion organised during the
openning night, the level of agression and arrogance is raising.
"Art in the service of lefties?". was to be short-lived and almost
invisible, nevertheless it will continue in a new reincarnation. It's
to be be a chapter in the book "Bad News" published in accordance with
show "Bad News" (the one on which "Art in the service of lefties?" was
overwritten) in Kronika. I'll send you copies when it's released (at
beginning of October).
The list of artists:
Tomek Bierkowski
Michael Blum
Pavel Büchler
Dorota Buczkowska
Mira Boczniowicz & Andrzej K. Urbanski
Daniela Brahm
Mariola Brillowska
Bogna Burska
Martin Conrads
Hubert Czerepok
Christoph Draeger
Roman Dziadkiewicz
Omer Fast
Ulrike Fesel
Rainer Ganahl
Marek Glinkowski
Lukasz Gronowski
Thomas Hirschhorn
Grzegorz Klaman
Kamil Kuskowski
Zbigniew Libera
David Malkjovic
Jacek Niegoda
Anna Niesterowicz
Anna Okrasko
Daniel Rumiancew
Wilhelm Sasnal
Jan Simon
Johen Schmith
Nedko Solakov
Grzegorz Sztwiertnia
Marek Wasilewski
Adam Witkowski
Julian Jakub Ziólkowski
& Lukasz Guzek's archive
thank you for your fantastic contribution
I'll keep you updated with all the bad and good news....