As of November 27, the government of Poland has banned abortion except in the following circumstances when a woman’s life or health is comprised following pregnancy, when pregnancy occurs following a criminal act, and when there is a high probability of irreversible fetal impairment as per the New York Times. The country’s ban on abortions has sparked mass demonstrations alongside the return of a seminal women’s rights poster by the famed American artist Barbara Kruger which has appeared across Poland’s streets.
A Polish gallery plastered Kruger’s famed work Untitled (Your body is a battleground) across the city of Szczecin — nearly three decades since the artist developed the graphic work. “The urgent and brave protesting of marginalized, disempowered and newly empowered bodies is an insistent threat to the dominant and extremist choreographies of religion, power, and politics in Poland,” said Kruger to The Art Newspaper. “The brazen hypocrisy of the church and its predictable fist-bumping with the political right make for a grotesque dance of male bonding and resolute abuse of power.”
The artist initially created the work back in 1989 for the Women’s March on Washington, a protest against anti-abortion laws in the United States that threatened to undermine Roe v. Wade — the US Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the right to access abortion care. Poland began launching strict restrictions on abortion and sex education after the fall of communism when the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art mounted hundreds of posters of the work in Polish translation on buildings in Warsaw.
In the past few weeks, The TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art in Szczecin received new prints of the poster from Kruger’s Berlin gallery, Sprüth Magers. TRAFO described the importance of the poster on its website, saying that its first appearance in Poland came at a time “when we were in the process of forming a modern society.” Having added: “Today, a quarter of a century later, body politics is still a valid issue. With the politicians trying to objectify the female body, Kruger’s work remains extremely relevant and ‘ready to use.’”