Pictures of policemen ordering passersby to stay silent have appeared in public spaces in Warsaw ahead of the second round of Poland’s presidential elections on 12 July.
Made by the Madrid-based art collective Democracia, and displayed as part of the Warsaw Biennale of Art in collaboration with the international artistic platform a/political, Silence appears on three LED screens in the city’s metro, as well as in other public spaces across the Polish capital. Earlier this year, the work was presented in Houston, Santiago, and London, to protest against rising authoritarianism.
The posters have appeared amid a highly divisive presidential election fought between Poland’s incumbent right-wing president, Andrzej Duda, and Warsaw’ liberal mayor, Rafał Trzaskowski.
After being used in Soviet and American state propaganda alongside slogans such as “Silence means security” or “Don’t speak”, the gesture of holding a finger over the mouth to ask viewers to stay quiet, was popularised as a symbol of institutionalised autocratic power in the 1950s in Poland by poster designer Wojciech Fangor, as well as other artists around the world