A Polish art student illegally installed his sculpture of a man raping a woman in the Polish town of Gdansk, causing quite an international controversy.
Jerzy Szumczyk, a student at the Gdansk Fine Arts Academy, put up the street art sculpture last Saturday night, Der Spiegel reports. Titled “Komm, Frau” — German for “Come, woman” — it depicts a Red Army soldier overtaking a pregnant woman. (The choice of German for a title that assumes a Russian point of view is odd.) He kneels between her legs and pulls her hair with his left hand; in his right, he points a gun into her mouth. The graphic sculpture is life-size and made from concrete, which means Szumczyk must have had a hell of a time — and some help — putting it up. But it stood in public only briefly, alongside a Soviet tank that serves as a Communist-era memorial to the Russian liberation of the city from the Nazis; police removed the statue within hours, after a woman called the police, according to Agence France-Presse.
The 26-year-old Szumczyk explained to the Moscow Times that, after reading about the mass rapes committed by Soviet soldiers during the liberation of Poland, he “was unable to cope” with the information. (Estimates are hard to come by, but some say up to 100,000 Polish women were raped, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of German women who were raped by Soviet soldiers, too.) “I wanted to show the tragedy of women and the horrors of war,” he told the AFP. He added that the work was meant as “an expression of pacifism and a signal for peace” rather than an explicit condemnation of the Russians — which seems a tad disingenuous given both the history and the sculpture itself.
Naturally, the Russians are calling for Szumczyk’s head. That same Moscow Times story has this over-the-top statement from Russian ambassador Alexander Alexeyev:
“I am deeply outraged by the stunt by a Gdansk Fine Arts Academy student, who has defiled by his pseudo-art the memory of 600,000 Soviet servicemen who gave their lives in the fight for the freedom and the independence of Poland.”
Ahem. If Alexeyev wants to talk about defiling, alright then, let’s talk about defiling.
The ambassador continued: “We consider the installation of the statue as an expression of hooliganism, marked by an explicitly blasphemous nature.” Any followers of the Pussy Riot trial will note how eerily familiar those words sound.
Luckily, after a brief investigation, Polish authorities have declined to press charges on “a public incitement to hatred on the basis of nationality,” which Polskie Radio reports is a crime that can garner a two year-prison sentence. The case will now go to the police, who could fine him up to 1500 zloty (about $493) for an “indecent prank,” according to Polskie Radio. That seems quite steep for a piece of well-meaning but bad art, but it’s definitely better than jail time.