Well, this didn't exactly involve Gruppa. When I was working with Gruppa, during the '80s, I wasn’t the one curating. They were invited to do an exhibition (titled Metaphysical suspension in 1982), but then it was cancelled because of censorship. Under communism, as well as in the '80s, we had official censorship, but back then I didn’t curate any official exhibitions except for one – and then another towards the end of the decade in one of the 'unofficial' spaces.
In December 1981 when the Communist Polish People's Republic declared the Martial law, the entire Polish society – including artists, curators, and art critics – split into the 'official' and 'unofficial' streams. Being part of the unofficial one, I established a private foundation and held the exhibition in a private capacity, in a few spaces that weren’t used for art previously, as well as abroad. So in that time I didn't necessarily abide by the censorship rules and I didn't really have anything to do with Poland’s official art scene up until 1989 (when Communism fell in Poland).
Then this fantastic period of freedom began. I felt like a free person, art critic, curator and writer. But very soon, pressure was once again put upon us from different sides, including the artists' union. It was quite funny because while they were fighting the regime, the goal of it was not to allow people their freedom, but to gain control of the system. I felt the pressure once I started working as the director of the Zachęta in 1993. During my time working as the director, it wasn't as much a censorship as a kind of pressure. Then in 2000, the ministry closed one of the gallery exhibitions, thereby actively committing the act of censorship. It was Piotr Uklański's The Nazis.
After some time, when I asked the huge, established curator Harald Szeemann to put together an exhibition for the hundredth anniversary of Zachęta's building, a new kind of pressure was placed upon me by the cultural minister to close that exhibition, because it involved a very well-known piece by Maurizio Cattelan called The Pope. I said that I wouldn’t do it. That if he wanted to close the exhibition – and the gallery belonged to the culture minister – he’d have to do it himself. So I lost my job (laughs).
But that wasn't the end of my censorship problems. Not so much in Poland, more so in Germany. When I did Side by Side: Poland – Germany. A 1000 Years of Art and History – a huge exhibition – the director of the Martin-Gropius-Bau came to it some two-three weeks after the opening and switched off the Zmijewski (Tag) installation. He said I'd sold the necessary copyright, so he could do what he wanted. I didn't take it to court because as a private citizen, I wasn't rich enough to hire all of the lawyers.
It happen in Germany, and not just in Poland. I didn't agonise too much over censorship, but this kind of thing happens every day, in many fields. I can’t speak to how these things go in public institutions, because I decided not to repeat the experience of being director of anything and refused to direct any institution from the moment I left Zachęta, becoming an independent curator and writer instead.