In 2020, authorities of two Polish towns Zakrzówek and Tuszów Narodowy sued an activist and filmmaker Bartosz ‘Bart’ Staszewski for alleged false news represented in his artistic project about LGBT Free Zones in Poland, reported Wyborcza.pl.
Bart Staszewski started his Zones project in December 2019 with the aim of “raising a voice and starting a public debate” on the situations of ‘LGBT Free Zones’ in Poland, which refer to around 50 provinces, counties and municipalities that declared themselves free from “LGBT ideology”. Additionally, President Andrzej Duda has signed the Family Charter in June 2020, in which, according to ILGA Europe he promises to “defend the institution of marriage (which means no acceptance for same-sex marriages)” and “protect children and the family from so-called ‘LGBT ideology’.”
According to Wyborcza Rzeszow, the lawsuits are based on the allegation that the project presented a fake interpretation of the resolutions and that towns are not against LGBTI persons. Commune of Tuszów Narodowy, which declared to be free from from “LGBTI ideology”, demanded apologies and rectification from the artist.
The artist told Freemuse that he wanted to visually represent what the act of declaration towns as free from “LGBT ideology” means. To do that, Staszewski created yellow plates with the “LGBT-Free Zone” sign and photographed them next to the town signs that signed the declaration. He published the photographs with the stories of LGBTI individuals expressing their feelings about the LGBT-Free Zones.
“[…]I asked people who are living around the Lublin in the LGBT free zones to join my project,” Staszewski told Freemuse.
According to oko.press, ‘LGBT-Free Zones’ relate to the movement of around 50 provinces, counties and municipalities in Poland that declare themselves free from “LGBT ideology” as an objection to “a cultural revolution that threatens the freedom of speech, the innocence of children, the authority of the family and school, and the freedom of enterprises”.
When asked about the impact of the situation and lawsuits on his life, Staszewski says he is afraid of being investigated and that “[…] It is this situation that I’m not feeling secure in my own country.”
The artist highlights the decrease in sponsoring art by the state compared to past years, especially when art is deemed go “against tradition, church and history, whatever is new controversially” as primary obstacles to artistic freedom in Poland.
Some of the other photographed towns also began to sue Bart Staszewski, with the next court proceedings to start in March 2021.
Bart Staszewski is an activist and documentary film director known for his film Article 18 released in 2017. He co-organised the Equality March in Lublin, Poland. For his work, Staszewski was awarded the European Tolerantia Award in 2019.
You can see all photographs from the Zones project here.