September 6, 2022


Alexandra Ivanciu & Jolanta Nowaczyk: Plan B In More Steps

Plan B in More Steps – Alexandra Ivanciu & Jolanta Nowaczyk – Brochures with interviews with activists and doctors

Alexandra Ivanciu and Jolanta Nowaczyk joined their artistic forces to engage with their own means in the global fight to increase women’s access to reproductive and contraceptive rights. The artists met during their studies in Romania and, in 2018, they started collaborating occasionally, motivated by the support of activist causes. In response to the far-right Polish government’s decision to ban abortions since January 2021, with access to the morning-after pill already severely limited since 2017, the number of activist organizations offering immediate solutions for women in crisis has grown considerably. “Since the Polish government imposed anti-abortion law, my art practice shifted toward activism. I co-created Ciocia Czesia collective who helps Polish people to obtain legal and safe abortion in the Czech Republic. I fully dedicated my energy to this activity, believing in a self-organized support system”, says Jolanta. Organizations such as Ciocia Czesia or the informal collective Dzien Po, formed in 2017, import and distribute morning-after pills to women in Poland (and, more recently, refugees from Ukraine, affected by Polish legislation) propose models of resistance based on mutual care.

Alexandra Ivanciu and Jolanta Nowaczyk have engaged in an active art project in solidarity with the approach of the Polish organization Dzien Po, which proposes, on the one hand, the distribution of funds from the creative sector to the activist sector, as well as consistent information on the history of rights sexual and reproductive health in Eastern Europe.

Plan B in More Steps – Alexandra Ivanciu & Jolanta Nowaczyk – General Exhibition View

The first collaborative exhibition initiated by the two artists is the Plan b in more steps project, opened this summer at the ZUKUNFTSVISIONEN festival in the German city of Görlitz, located on the border with Poland. Guided by a critical thinking informed by intersectional feminism, Alexandra and Jolanta oriented their collaborative practice politically, in relation to problems from the immediate reality, creativity being a weapon placed “in service of the revolution”. The situation of banning abortions in Poland angered them and motivated them to start looking for solutions, from the position they are in and with the limited means they have access to.

The exhibition was conceived as a generator of a context, a catalyst between art and activism; being idea and action oriented. The exhibition space becomes an educational one, a “pro-choice” info-point, where the artists bring together several types of informational resources about sexual rights, historical or informative in a practical sense. Along with informative materials about reproductive rights and related policies in the region, the exhibition includes a series of interviews with activists such as Andrada Cilibiu, Daniela Drăghici, the collective Dzien Po or doctors Melania Rys, Marieke Bea; a complex perspective on abortion, related medical procedures, treatment, trauma, prohibition, clandestine curettage or death.

Romania’s recent history offers a harsh lesson about the criminalization of abortion. The pronatalist policies of the Romanian communist state, which banned and criminalized abortions in 1968, (officially) caused 10,000 female victims. The prohibition of abortions did not have the desired effect of whipping out the procedure, but instituted a Russian roulette between experimental, pseudo-medical practices that often led to death. How can this history be avoided in other parts of the world? Restricting or limiting the right to contraception is rooted in the natalist policies of nation states, generally with expansionist motivations cloaked in religious justifications.

Installation view from the exhibition Plan B in More Steps – Alexandra Ivanciu & Jolanta Nowaczyk

Faced with the ban, women have always found solutions through solidarity networks that have become models of feminist resistance. The Dzien Po organization collects donations in pills that they distribute to women in Poland, where the morning-after pill can only be purchased with a prescription, which is difficult to obtain. Faced with this regional problem, a reality faced by women from all over the world, the exhibition Plan b in more steps becomes part of an act of resistance, being, above all, an invitation to action. The stated purpose of the project is the distribution of funds from the artistic space to the activist space, respectively through the redistribution of the artist’s fee, the production budget and the above-mentioned performative fundraising for the purchase of a number of morning-after pills to be distributed to the women of Poland, via the Dzien Po network.

The exhibition Plan b in more steps is simple, clear, very focused on the subject and uninhibited by the cultural pressures of aesthetic production, convoluted academic discourse or sophisticated messages. Faced with the ban on abortion in Poland, Alexandra Ivanciu and Jolanta Nowaczyk respond with a subversive artistic gesture of renouncing complicated artistic production in favor of activist work. The exhibition explores radical solidarity, a pertinent response to the possibilities, privileges and social responsibilities that work in a creative field imposes today. We live in times of emergency with serious problems in all directions of human and non-human life. Under these conditions, individual natalist policies tend to no longer coincide with those of nation states, therefore women’s right to contraception and abortion begins to be threatened.

Even if the decrease in the birth rate is explained by countless socio-economic factors, especially the impoverishment of the population, by no means a consequence of the increase in the number of abortions, the prohibition on abortion is, in some national cultures, a populist measure that easily distracts from the real problems. Symbolically, the woman’s womb continues to be understood under the subordination of the nation, the individual responsibility of childbirth being transformed into an obligation before the state. Armed with religious mythologies to support this cause, conservative groups around the world periodically bring up the status of abortion in a state. Very recently, the problems regarding the prohibition or limitation of abortions in some states of the United States of America has revived in many corners of the world anti-abortion activism, religiously motivated, ostentatiously titled “pro-life”.

Plan B in More Steps – Alexandra Ivanciu & Jolanta Nowaczyk – Video Work titled “Processing”

In Romania, despite the legality, the medical procedure is hindered or refused for religious reasons, a situation valid in countless states where abortion is not prohibited. The European Parliament’s proposal to introduce amendment 7 that guarantees the right to abortion to legal and safe abortions in the Charter of Human Rights remains a desirable response to the need to respect the decision-making power of each individual in the autonomy of their own body. In Europe, the most restrictive anti-abortion legislation is maintained in Malta, Andorra and, more recently, in Poland, states with a very influential Catholic majority. Alexandra Ivanciu and Jolanta Nowaczyk direct the viewer to contemplate this overwhelming reality through a video work that operates with the iconic image of a woman seen from behind advancing through a crowd. The camera follows Jolanta as she crosses the border into Poland surrounded by a group of people in a religious procession.

A single woman is a tiny negligible quantity, easy to crush in a crowd, easy to subdue. What can you do from this position? What can you do when a crowd decides on your body? Out of anger caused by this impossibility, Jolanta Nowaczyk and Alexandra Ivanciu set out on the road with artistic means in search of solutions, the exhibition being, first and foremost, the affirmation of a desire for action, a commitment to social change, a cry for solidarity. “For me, art for art’s sake is no longer an option. I strongly believe in making art that not only gives food for thought to the public of the gallery or museum, but also actively contributes to the needs of society,” explains Alexandra.

Plan b in more steps includes, along with the “pro-choice” info-point, a documentation on the actions of purchasing pills carried out by artists in Germany, Romania and the Czech Republic, providing information about the situations encountered along the way as well as about the circuit of money raised from the project. The performative action About Flowers and Choice complements the exhibition in a participatory way, Alexandra and Jolanta using a kind of subversive hospitality for information in the hope of attracting visitors to the service of the cause. The artists prepared and served a drink (long drink), which consists of a liquor made from herbs used in the past to regulate or “recover” the menstrual cycle. In the past, before modern states increasingly controlled it and before modern medicine, women had control over reproduction through the use of plants. With the help of plants, they recovered their cycle: this could mean the end of a pregnancy or simply hormonal regulation. Thus, although they campaign for the purchase of pharmaceutical products, Alexandra and Jolanta avoid their direct promotion, for easy-to-understand reasons.

Plan B in More Steps – Alexandra Ivanciu & Jolanta Nowaczyk – Bar installed for opening performance titled “About Flowers and Choice”

The Plan b in more steps exhibition is a manifesto, an exercise in solidarity, an invitation to action; a wake-up call: human rights are threatened from countless directions in the region. What to do? What are the responsibilities of artists? Political art also permanently questions the role, the place, the responsibilities of the artist in society. Alexandra and Jolanta show how art can become a tool for change, not just an object for pleasure.


Valentina Iancu

Valentina Iancu (b. 1985) is a writer with studies in art history and image theory. Her practice is hybrid, research-based, divided between editorial, educational, curatorial or management activities ...

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