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Emphatic Portraits – poster action by Ewa Partum

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Date: 1978

Participant: Ewa Partum

Organizer: ZPAP [Association of Polish Artists and Designers] Festival of Fine Arts in Warsaw

Location: Streets of Warsaw

Ewa Partum took part in the ZPAP Festival of Fine Arts in Warsaw with posters which connected different aspects of her previous works. The statement from her 1971 poem, “My touch is the touch of a woman,” was transformed into “My problem is the problem of a woman,” which was printed under the photo of her performance Change at Address Gallery in Łódź (1974) in which she let half of her face be artificially aged. 600 posters of Emphatic Portraits were put up all around Warsaw. In 1979 she repeated a similar poster campaign.

Her intervention—public display of an old woman’s face instead of an attractive young girl usually used in advertisements—was intended to point out that the urban space was the place of an artificial self-identification of women. It was not understood in that way though, and her action met a critical response in a weekly, popular magazine published in Poland in those years, Kultura. Written in sarcastic tone, the review accuses the artist of trivializing existential human tensions and narcissism.[1] Partum responded in the same magazine, stressing that the aim of her action was to articulate the consciousness and individual feature of the feminine problematic: “I consider feminist art important as that which gives the opportunity for the self-definition of a woman artist through her experience in ‘being woman’ in a patriarchal society.”

Document: Ewa Partum: “Ewa Partum’s Real Problem” – A Reply (1979)


[1] Andrzej Osęka, “Prawdziwy problem Ewy Partum” [Ewa Partum’s Real Problem], Kultura 37 (1979).


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