Obstruction of the legal right to express opinion?
On Saturday 27th June, an artistic performance called Walk of Pawns, which aimed to comment on the Walk for Life march was stopped by the police. Eight persons dressed in gigantic inflatable pawns in Walk for Life colours did not manage to join the WFL in order to rehearse their legal right to peacefully express opposing views and advocate for a free life, stand for vulnerable members of society, as well as human and women’s rights and the autonomy of the female body. With the „Walk of Pawns“ our aim was to warn that women’s rights are being used as a political tool, especially during the upcoming elections. The March for Life held in Rijeka sent a clear message that women who were raped and decided to terminate the pregnancy were murderers, which we consider to be a dangerous idea.
Walk of Pawns
Walk for Life is a means of polarizing society and threatening human and women’s rights at pre-election times, by which it works in favour of the right-wing political options. Walk of Pawns is a critically comical performance made by the Tools for Action art and activist group in collaboration with the artist organisation GSG* and the citizens of Rijeka in order to support the struggle for life in freedom.
During the action, eight gigantic blue-yellow inflatable pawns in personal protective equipment for corona virus wanted to take the lead of the walk with a choreographed performance. By cheerfully avoiding any obstacles on their way, the pawns should have revealed a banner reframing the Walk for Life as a dangerous and retrograde political ideology, infringing on the hard-fought basic reproductive human rights which as mentioned before was stopped by the police. The figure of the pawn, chosen in a collaborative process between the citizens of Rijeka and Tools for Action artist group, has become a new tool to point to the manipulative nature of such political actions. The pawns reveal the Walk for Life’s choice to march in the week before parliamentary elections as a strategy to exert political pressure, positioning the majority of concerned participants as unintentional pawns in a bigger game of chess that polarizes and manipulates the energy of the people who care for life in all its forms.
All the eight pawns were handcrafted during a five-day long workshop led by Tools for Action in collaboration with the artistic organisation GSG and attended by the citizens of Rijeka. During hands-on workshops, participants worked together and learned how to fabricate inflatable sculptures while building strong friendships in the process. In the words of Tools for Action ‘we are interested in tactical frivolity and poetry that brings people together in our common concerns for life and freedom, working on the borders between visual art, performance and protest. Instead of standing against each other on opposite sides, we would like to speak across the dividing lines of ignorance with a sense of humor and care.’
In support of Citizens of Rijeka
Walk of Pawns was carried out in support of the local initiative Citizens of Rijeka in their struggle to point to the harmful effect the Walk for Life has on women’s reproductive rights.
Tools for Action
Tools for Action bring inflatables into public spaces to make tactical interventions, and show that political action can be engaging, aesthetic and fun! Their practice oscillates between performance and protest prototyping a new form language for manifestations. Tools for Action was founded by visual artist Artur van Balen in direct collaboration with the climate movement in 2012. Since then the varying group of artists, designers, activists and educators opposed fascist marches (Dortmund 2016) but also collaborated with the transgender sex workers community (Bogota, 2017-18). They organise skill-share workshops in the manufacture of inflatable sculptures and how to use them for political actions. The March of Pawns was developed by Tools for Action with the current team of Artúr van Balen, Shailoh Phillips, Jeffrey Arts in collaboration with local volunteers.