Ban on banana-eating artwork draws ridicule in Poland

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People play with banana peels during a protest against perceived censorship by Poland's National Museum in front of the National Museum in Warsaw, Poland April 29, 2019. (REUTERS)
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People with bananas demonstrate outside Warsaw's National Museum on April 29, 2019, to protest against censorship, after authorities removed an artwork at the museum presenting a woman eating a banana, saying it was improper. (AFP)
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People with bananas demonstrate outside Warsaw's National Museum on April 29, 2019, to protest against censorship, after authorities removed an artwork at the museum presenting a woman eating a banana, saying it was improper. (AFP)
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People with bananas demonstrate outside Warsaw's National Museum on April 29, 2019, to protest against censorship, after authorities removed an artwork at the museum presenting a woman eating a banana, saying it was improper. (AFP)
Updated 30 April 2019

Ban on banana-eating artwork draws ridicule in Poland

  • Art critics note that “Consumer Art” was a critical comment on food shortages under communist rule in the 1970s

WARSAW, Poland: A few hundred mostly young people jointly ate bananas outside Warsaw’s top national gallery on Monday to protest what they called censorship, after authorities removed artwork there featuring the fruit, saying it was improper.
The protest was called by artists and opposition politicians as part of their action on Facebook and Twitter of posting photos of themselves eating bananas in order to ridicule the ban. The action grew into a show of apparent criticism of the government.
The 1973 video “Consumer Art,” by prominent artist Natalia LL, showing a young woman eating a banana with great pleasure, was removed from the National Museum in Warsaw last week after the new museum head, Jerzy Miziolek, was summoned to the Ministry of Culture.
Miziolek said in an interview with the Onet.pl portal last week that he was “opposed to showing works that could irritate sensitive young people” and suggested some visitors have complained. The work had been in the gallery for many years.
A separate 2005 video by another controversial female artist, Katarzyna Kozyra, showing a woman walking two men on all fours, dressed as dogs on a lead, was also removed.
On Monday, Miziolek announced that the works would be reinstated, but only until May 6, when the whole modern art gallery is due for reorganization. Miziolek and the Ministry of Culture denied there was any pressure on the museum.
Miziolek, who was appointed to the state-run museum by the right-wing government in November, said Monday he appreciated the role of both artists in Poland’s culture, but the gallery’s limited space requires “creative changes” to the exhibition.
The dispute is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding art and culture under the conservative and nationalist government that won power in 2015.
Culture Minister Piotr Glinski has repeatedly drawn criticism for cutting subsidies to art festivals that were planning to show controversial theater plays on Catholic themes. Glinski has fired a popular theater director who criticized him as well as the director of a World War II museum, saying the exhibition did not show Poland’s suffering or heroism enough.
He recently cut funds for the European Solidarity Center, an exhibition on the Solidarity movement’s history and a culture center popular with government critics, saying its activity went beyond its history-teaching mission.
Twitter and Facebook users ridiculed the removal of the art works as narrow-minded and a case of censorship, and many posted photos of themselves enjoying bananas.
Actress Magdalena Cielecka told The Associated Press that the image she posted, of her pointing a banana at her head like a gun, was in protest against any ideological or political limits put on artists.
“An artist, to create, must be free,” Cielecka said.
At the collective banana-eating protest Monday night, some people brought more than one banana, while others put banana skins on top of their heads. A few unarmed police officers were on the scene outside the museum, which is closed on Mondays.
Senate speaker and prominent ruling Law and Justice party member Stanislaw Karczewski sought to discredit the protest, tweeting that Polish apples are tastier than bananas and have fewer calories.
“The #BananowyProtest (banana protest) is the straight road to obesity,” Karczewski tweeted.
The controversy was widely commented on in national media.
Art critics note that “Consumer Art” was a critical comment on food shortages under communist rule in the 1970s.


Harvey Weinstein jury to begin deliberations

Updated 18 February 2020

Harvey Weinstein jury to begin deliberations

  • More than 80 women have accused ex-Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct
  • Weinstein is the first man accused of abuse in the #MeToo movement to face a criminal trial

NEW YORK: Jurors will begin deliberating the fate of ex-Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein on Tuesday in his high-profile sex crimes trial that marked a watershed moment in the #MeToo movement.
The disgraced movie mogul, 67, faces life in prison if the jury of seven men and five women convict him of predatory sexual assault charges in New York.
More than 80 women have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct since allegations against him ignited the #MeToo global reckoning against men abusing positions of power in October 2017.
But the jury is considering charges related to just two: ex-actress Jessica Mann and former production assistant Mimi Haleyi, with many claims too old to prosecute.
Mann, 34, says Weinstein raped her in March 2013, while Haleyi alleges he forcibly performed oral sex on her in July 2006.
The proceedings, which began hearing testimony on January 22, threw up complicated issues surrounding consent and abuse of power for the jury.
Under cross-examination, both Mann and Haleyi acknowledged at least one consensual sexual encounter with Weinstein after the alleged assaults.
Defense lawyers presented dozens of emails and text messages in court that appeared to show both Mann and Haleyi on friendly terms with Weinstein years after the alleged attacks.
His team said the relationships were consensual and transactional, arguing that the accusers used sex with the defendant to advance their own careers.
Prosecutors said he was a career sexual predator who took advantage of his powerful position in the American film industry to prey on aspiring young actresses.
Weinstein, the producer of “Pulp Fiction” and “Sin City,” is the first man accused of abuse in the #MeToo movement to face a criminal trial.
In closing arguments Thursday, lead attorney Donna Rotunno urged the 12 jurors to make themselves “unpopular” by acquitting Weinstein, insisting he had been innocent from the start.
She stressed that prosecutors had failed to present any forensic evidence or eyewitness accounts.
The prosecution’s case rests on whether the jury believes the six women, including actress Annabella Sciorra of “The Sopranos,” who testified that Weinstein had sexually assaulted them.
Judge James Burke will begin instructing jurors at 9:30a.m. (1430 GMT), before they retire to consider their verdict.
He will remind them that to convict, they must be sure of the defendant’s guilt beyond all reasonable doubt.
Weinstein faces five counts including predatory sexual assault, rape and a criminal sexual act.
The jury must reach unanimous verdicts on each count. If they cannot, the judge may be forced to declare a mistrial.
A split verdict is possible where Weinstein is convicted of some charges and cleared of others.
Weinstein is facing a separate sex crimes investigation in Los Angeles and is also the subject of several civil complaints.