An Iconic Barbara Kruger Text Artwork Has Become a Symbol in the Protest Movement Against Poland’s Strict Anti-Abortion Laws

The artwork first appeared in Poland in 1991.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.
Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Inspired by protests against restrictive new Polish abortion laws, Barbara Kruger has revisited her 30-year-old text-based artwork, Your Body Is a Battleground, allowing versions of it to be pasted on the streets of the Polish city of Szczecin. The new edition is being created in partnership with the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art.

Originally designed for the occasion of the 1989 Women’s March in Washington, DC, which opposed efforts to overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade US Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion, the poster features a photograph of a woman’s face, half printed in negative. The work’s title is printed atop the image in Kruger’s signature red-and-white oblique Futura bold type.

“It is both tragic and predictable that the brutal conditions that led to my producing this image so many decades ago are still at work controlling women’s bodies and their access to reproductive care,” Kruger told Artnet News in an email. “The structures of power and containment are relentless in their choreographies of marginalization and exclusion.”

In October, the Polish constitutional court banned abortions in cases of fetal abnormalities. In a country that already had some of Europe’s strictest abortion laws, that will put an end to most of the 1,000 legal abortions that take place each year, allowing the procedure only in cases of rape, incest, and risk to the mother’s life.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Kruger first created a Polish-language version of Your Body Is a Battleground in 1991 for an installation of 500 posters on the streets of Warsaw. The artworks were torn down or covered up after only one weekend, but Polish feminists staged a second installation six months later, in hard-to-reach spots that ensured they remained on view longer, according to the Art Newspaper.

This time around, TRAFO wrote to Kruger the day of the court ruling, suggesting it was time to revisit the work. Within weeks, her Berlin gallery, Sprüth Magers, had sent the art center 100 copies of the poster, which were quickly pasted across the city. The work will also appear in TRAFO’s upcoming exhibition, “Whatever You Come Up With About Yourself,” celebrating the city’s 75th anniversary.

“In Poland, the gatekeepers, that tight twinning of the right-wing church and state, fight hard and dirty to keep their power and engage their fears. We see this echoed across continents in the reactionary responses to the broader struggles around gender, race, and class,” Kruger said. “In the midst of a planetary pandemic, these events loom large and present possibilities for a dire and cruel future, but also might suggest something braver, more hopeful, and just.

See more photos of the posters’ installation in Poland below.

Barbara Kruger, <em>Your Body is a Battleground</em> (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, <em>Your Body is a Battleground</em> (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, <em>Your Body is a Battleground</em> (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, <em>Your Body is a Battleground</em> (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, <em>Your Body is a Battleground</em> (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, <em>Your Body is a Battleground</em> (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, <em>Your Body is a Battleground</em> (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, <em>Your Body is a Battleground</em> (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, <em>Your Body is a Battleground</em> (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, <em>Your Body is a Battleground</em> (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.

Barbara Kruger, Your Body is a Battleground (1989/1991) as seen on the streets of Szczecin, Poland. Photo by Andrzej Golc, courtesy of the artist, Sprüth Magers, Berlin, and the TRAFO Center for Contemporary Art, Szczecin. From the collection of the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, Warsaw.


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