Today we bring you Queering the Archive: When a Personal Act of Collecting Turns Political, an article on queer art and activism in Eastern Europe recently featured on our sister site, Art Practical. Author Ela Bittencourt notes, “Kisiel’s slides…reverse the commonly accepted notion that there was no room for individual expression, least of all same-sex eroticism, in communist Eastern Europe. At the same time, their secretive circulation reminds us of the very real dangers that surrounded such expression.” This article was originally published on February 6, 2014.
Kisieland (2012), a documentary film by the Polish artist Karol Radziszewski, explores the importance and historical context of the personal slide collection of Ryszard Kisiel. Kisiel, his boyfriend, and a small circle of friends shot more than three hundred homoerotic slides (some of them featured in Kisieland) mostly between 1985 and 1986, while Poland was still under a communist government. Kisiel kept the collection secret. Radziszewski’s project, which in addition to the film includes a book that will feature reproductions of all the slides, makes Kisiel’s work available to a wider public for the first time. Kisieland has been recently shown in the United States, at Performa 2013, and has also been extensively screened in Europe, where it has stirred debates on the implications of divulging a private, homoerotic body of work and the contextualization that this requires. When I spoke with Radziszewski about the film, he said he hoped it would draw attention to the way that Poland’s LGBT movement has banished sexuality from its contemporary public discourse, feeding into what Radziszewski sees as a generally sex-phobic climate.