Golgota Picnic: photo - David Ruano/Malta Festival
“Freedom of artistic expression is the basis of democracy and the constitution. And these were not empty words,” Minister Omilanowska said to prolonged applause at the 20th Competition for Contemporary Polish Art Awards ceremony in Warsaw on Tuesday, referring to the cancellation of playwright Rodrigo Garcia's Golgota Picnic at the Poznan Malta Festival after the organisers feared potentially violent protests from far-right and religious groups.
“We must ensure that nobody raises a hand against the freedom of artists. This must be as clear as the sun in the sky on a clear day,” said Małgorzata Omilanowska, who took over from Bogdan Zdrojewski to lead the culture ministry after he was elected as an MEP in the May European parliamentary elections.
Audiences have a right to make up their own mind about a performance in a theatre, she said, adding that the controversy about the play is being raises “for strictly political purposes”.
Conservative Law and Justice (PiS) opposition MPs Małgorzata Sadurska and Andrzej Jaworski filed a motion with prosecutors on Tuesday against Golgota Picnic being staged in Poland, claiming the play “offends religious sentiment”.
Rodrigo Garcia says his play is a critique of modern day consumer society through a deconstruction of the message of Jesus, but the organisers of the Malta Festival in Poznan, western Poland, feared protests against the play similar to those when it was staged in France in 2011, with the head of the Théâtre du Rond-Point on the Champs-Elysées complaining of death threats before its opening.
Religious and nationalist groups in Poland have protested against the play, which takes place on a stage littered with burger buns and has several religious references including readings from the Bible and a crucifixion scene.
Readings of the Golgotha Picnic have taken place in cities across Poland following the cancellation at the Malta Festival in June, with one newspaper publishing transcripts.
Law and Justice MPs, however, claim that the staging of the play contravenes Article 196 of the Criminal Code, which states that the, "anyone who offends the religious feelings of other people [can be] subject to a fine, restriction of liberty or imprisonment for up to two years."
Golgota Picnic is “pseudo-art, full of scenes of obscenity, profanity and pornography,” says the motion sent to prosecutors by the conservative MPs and is “a clear insult to all those who consider themselves religious”.
MP Małgorzata Sadurska questioned whether the culture minister “would hide behind artistic freedom of expression if [the play] was about the Jewish religion,” TVN24 reports her as saying.
A group of artists, led by film director Agnieszka Holland have written a letter to President Komorowski demanding that artistic freedom be respected in Poland. (pg)