The Revolutionary Power of Male Nudity: Queer Embodiment as Countercultural Performance Art in Communist Poland

Pawel Leszkowicz

This paper examines how the Polish counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s opened up   space and possibility   for two gay  action  artists to express their different sensibilities and embodiments and to project an alternative vision of  subjectivity, masculinity and gender politics. This study  is part of a bigger research project of tracing the homoerotic expression  in  art — behind the Iron Curtain — in Eastern Europe and the crucial role of  counterculture for such subversions.   Krzysztof Jung and Krzysztof Niemczyk performed (with) their naked and eroticized bodies; their actions  reveal fascination with  the male body as an aesthetic, sexual  and rebellious  subject.  The visual  conventions of the People’s Republic of Poland distorted and veiled the male body: full male nudity, considered pornographic, was  censored. The artists found in  the countercultural art communities in Warsaw and Cracow  an atmosphere  which allowed them to explore their male nudity and sexuality  as a basis for  oppositional performance art that expressed what was then called ‘homosexual’ fantasies and desires. The actions of  Krzysztof Niemczyk and Krzysztof Jung were examples  of queer  counterculture in the communist  system and today  they can be analysed in political  as well as intimate  terms. Through the exploration of the tabooed male nudity, the two performers pioneered art as a form of sexual dissidence, a vision topical in the context of the oppressive  heteronormative systems that started to rule Eastern Europe after 1989.