Filip Kijowski queer library poland artist
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March 15, 2022
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Inside Filip Kijowski’s queer polish library

Last April, polish artist Filip Kijowski opened an open queer library: Biblioteka Azyl. In Lublin, a city surrounded by the ‘LGBT-free zones’, the library acts as a refuge for young LGBTQI+ polish and an invite to open the discussion.

Filip Kijowski is an interdisciplinary artist currently based in Lublin, Poland. After spending 15 years in London, he returned to his native country in 2020 as the presidential elections were taking place. The reelection of Andrzej Duda was made possible with an intensive campaign against the ‘LGBT ideology’. The focus of the elections on the queer community led to a stronger vague of discrimination.

As hate was spreading across the country, Galeria Labirynt, a municipal cultural institution based in Lublin, created a new exhibition: ‘Jesteśmy ludźmi/We Are People’. It aimed to combat hate speech and discrimination while reclaiming the humanity queer people had been refused, reduced to an ‘ideology’. The director of Galeria Labirynt invited 50 queer polish artists, among which Filip Kijowski.

For his residency, he came up with a project aiming to question the mindset of queerphobic people in Poland. He visited various cities and walked around public places to ask people to design a postcard on LGBTQ+ topics. Between 2020 and 2021, he collected more than 1,000 postcards. He projected some of them onto the facade of Galeria Labirynt on 17 May 2021, the International Day Against Homophobia.

As Lublin is close to many ‘LGBT-free zone’, Filip Kijowski went there with artist Barbara Gryka in chameleon costumes. The fun aspect of the costumes allowed the artists to talk to the people and dodge part of the rejection they would receive as queers. They discovered that many of them had no idea about the zones or what LGBTQI+ even meant.

Wanting to provide education on LGBTQI+ subjects, Filip Kijowski came up with an idea: to open a crowd-sourced queer library. Since April 2019, it is illegal in Poland to teach students about LGBTQI+ related topics. Young queer people have little to no access to information and are left alone in their experience. Biblioteka Azyl was created to fight the erasure of LGBTQI+ narratives in Poland.

Located within Galeria Labirynt, Biblioteka Azyl was built as a safe community space. It is also a place for those close to queer people to learn. All the books are crowd-sourced, Filip Kijowski emailing queer authors and publications himself. People can also directly send books to the library. He also plans to make the library itinerant, traveling to the ‘LGBT-free zones’. For now, Biblioteka Azyl focuses its efforts on helping Ukrainian refugees.

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