Rafał Milach (*1978) The Archive of Public Protests: "Abortion Means Life" - Protest against total Abortion Ban. Warschau, 01.12.2021. Acquired with funds from Stiftung Presse-Haus NRZ 2023 © Rafał Milach / Archive of Public Protests
Rafał Milach / Archive of Public Protests
Sep 22, 2023 – Jan 1, 2024
Museum Folkwang
Essen, Germany

Rafał Milach (b. 1978) is the initiator and co-founder of the 2019 collective The Archive of Public Protests, or A-P-P for short. The collective was founded as a reaction to the restrictions on the freedom of expression and the rule of law in Poland by the national conservative national conservative party PiS. The 18 photographers, activists and theoreticians who are currently involved theorists are recording the protests, which have since intensified, and are making their photographs and their photographs and texts for free use, in order to counteract the reporting of government-related media with their own images and their own images and narratives. In addition to restrictions on the freedom of the press, further topics include the ban on abortions, refugee and climate policy, Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Rafał Milach rejects the claim of journalistic independence for his photographic works independence and instead becomes a solidary part of the protests. He shows pictures of crowds and the sometimes harsh rejection by state authorities. In his photographs, Milach often focuses on the faces of individual participants who have themselves become icons of the protest movements in Poland. The newspapers published by the collective also expand the activist potential by using the published images and messages in photographs of upcoming protests and mobilizing for further demonstrations.

Thirteen photographs and four slogans were wallpapered on the exhibition walls as large-scale posters, thus transferring the manifestations of public space into the museum. The immersive installation with photographs, videos and typographic slogans makes the activist power of the protests tangible for the public.

The exhibition juxtaposes the new acquisition of The Archive of Public Protests with selected press prints from the Girardet Photo Archive. The collection from the former Essen publishing house comprises around 100,000 photographs and has been part of the Photographic Collection at the Museum Folkwang since 1989 as a permanent loan from the Ruhr University Bochum. Using the example of protest photographs, especially from the 1950s, the distribution channels of the press prints are traced on the basis of the marked backs and the differences in content and structure of the activist form of protest and Girardet’s publishing structures are put into relation.

The Archive of Public Protests acquired in 2023 with funding from Stiftung Presse-Haus NRZ.

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