exhibitions / 2018

On 23 March 2018, in a black protest organized by women for the third time, some of the participants of the Warsaw march fired smoke flares. Police intervened, the legal demonstration was stopped for a moment, but after a while, women were released. Pictures of high poles of black, billowing smoke circled the media and were memorized as one of the visual representations of that afternoon. They also opened a space for discussion on the radicalization of the women’s movement. 

There is no doubt that launching a flare in a public place belongs to the sphere of controversy. It is difficult, however, to find a more “visible” message that speaks about participants’ mood.

Smoke flare belongs to the wide arsenal of artifacts of public gatherings, it is an element of a specific “setting” of a socio-political event drawn from, among others, football stadiums. It is what makes the protest visible, next to banners, hangers, umbrellas or black clothes. Visibility, in turn, but also performativity, are a prerequisite for a protest in the media, gaining support or articulating postulates. These artifacts create a space of contestation and relations between participants of the movement. Finally – they protest because they are shaped by symbolic meanings and codes. But they are also susceptible to interceptions – the struggle for symbols can take place between participants of various groups.

The reasons behind launching the flares were not just the desire to construct a strong media image, but also to draw attention to the inequality of citizens in the face of the law. March of nationalists on Independence Day in Warsaw in 2018 was dominated by the smoke and fire of hundreds of flares with the passive attitude of the police. With this gesture, which was not up to the nationalists’ excesses, participants of the black protest showed the hypocrisy of authorities and its unequal reaction to the values carried on the banners.

At a time when the first Polish feminists fought for electoral rights for women, avant-garde artists broke with traditional cultural institutionalism, forcing a model of art close to everyday experience.”Seeding” uses the shift between the two areas. Video by Karolina Gembara & Rafał Milach


©Rafał Milach 2022

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