On a different topic, how do you see the situation for queer people in Poland these days?
Poland is definitely not the worst place for queer people in the world but I would not say that it is easy to live there as a queer person. Although progress has been made, there is still much work to be done regarding human rights issues. I find hope in the brave and beautiful people who fight for their rights and visibility. However, it’s demoralizing that actions such as “LGBT-free zones” and the near-total abortion ban have recently taken place. The government, supported by the church, is openly against LGBTQIA+ community, people of color, and feminists, resulting in racism, homophobia, and transphobia on a daily basis.
And related specifically to the arts world, how has freedom of expression been affected by these measurements?
It is hard to relate as I am based in Berlin and not there but I would say there is freedom in creating arts of all kinds. The question is if they will be able to present in the cultural institutions. As the government has taken control of them and replaced the heads of galleries, theaters, and museums with people who are aligned with the ruling party and willing to promote their propaganda. Unfortunately, this has resulted in the banning of topics such as colonialism, feminism, gender, queer issues, and climate change as they criticize the current political vision.
There are a lot of artists doing queer arts or working with more politically related topics but are relegated now only to private galleries. On one hand is positive as they are raising and coming up combined with the power of social media that has its effects and increases their audiences, but on the other hand it stays aways from the institutionalized arts due to political reasons and that has never been good.
Do you think things will improve in terms of LGBTQIA+ rights and freedom in the near future?
Even though things are tough, I remain hopeful that change is possible, especially as we approach the upcoming elections. This change can only be achieved through the bravery and determination of individuals who are willing to fight for human rights and want to make Poland the place for everyone. I’m really hoping that someday it will be like that.
This interview with Jan Baszak is part of our special The Hidden Dimension, celebrating queer identities in all their beauty. Check out the cinematic portrait of Warsaw-based photographer and visual artist Leo Maki on Nowness.