The Barbara Kruger Poster and the Front of a Culture War
Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Your Body Is a Battleground) appeared on billboards around Warsaw in November 1991. The idea of presenting it as a large-format poster came from the then CCA Ujazdowski Castle curator, Milada Ślizińska. Analyzing the work’s formal aspects, the essay’s author traces back its visual roots to the propaganda art of the Russian avant-garde; he also discusses the origins of the piece, which was produced for the 1989 “Women’s March on Washington” convened by feminist organizations in defence of the US Supreme Court’s pro-abortion decision of 1973 (Roe v. Wade). Citing an essay by Bernard Natanson, the author points to a media campaign and legislative process aimed at legalizing abortion, initiated in the 1960s by American liberal and left-wing circles, as the broad context for the making of Kruger’s work. Its Polish iteration, he argues, was motivated by a desire, shared by local liberal and left-wing communities, to uphold communist-era pro-abortion legislation in post-1989 Poland. The 1991 billboard campaign was also one of the first actions that placed contemporary art, and the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art as the institution behind the project, on one side of a culture-war front that emerged then and continues to this day.