Insult religious feeling in Poland and you get six months community service.
In 2003, installation artist Dorota Nieznalska was convicted under Section 196 of the Penal Code, which prohibits 'offending religious sentiment'. The heinous offence relates to when the artist, for twelve months in 2001/2002, exhibited at the experimental Wyspa Gallery, Gdansk, a work called Passion (pictured above). According to Artliberated.com the piece consisted of:
…A photograph of a fragment of a naked male body, including the genitalia, together with the projection of an image of a man’s face in the course of a hard training exercise. The artist has concerned herself for several years with the problem of maleness and of the connection of its models with the Christian paradigm of culture. This work was a natural extension of this trend.
I should mention that the image was projected on a cross. Ooops!
Though arty critics may have just loved it (installations are still cool, apparently), for the Christian-nationalist League of Polish Families – who forced their way into gallery after they heard about Passion in the media - this was clearly blasphemous and an insult to Catholicism and Poland.
On 18 July, 2003, the judge agreed and sentenced Nieznalska to half a year community service, and a criminal record.
The artist is appealing against the conviction and the case is still going through the courts.
The Wyspa Gallery, which has been showing ‘challenging’ work since 1985, was forced to close down.
The conviction of Dorota Nieznalska on the charge of insulting religious feelings is shocking proof that the fundamental statute of the Polish Republic is not respected in a country which until recently seemed to be a symbol of freedom. The principle of the freedom of expressing one’s views has been totally violated and has made the artist a victim of an ideologised vision of a religious state, which the League of Polish Families is attempting to impose on Polish society.
The PiS government is 100 days old today. What has been most characteristic, so far, of the new regime has been developments which seem to show that the League of Polish Families is not the only party to share the vision of a new Polsh constitution with Catholicism playing the moral foundation of the state.
Using the law as a way of stopping the media offend anyone has not been limited to works of art. See here, here and here.
More? See Dorota Nieznalska web page