Ryszard Kisiel – born in 1948. An activist for LGBT equality, and performer. He lives and works in Gdańsk. The creator of an underground zine, and later the officially published magazine “Filo”. The motive for Kisiel’s actions was Operation Hyacinth, a mass operation started in 1985 on the orders of general Czesław Kiszczak and carried out by the Citizens’ Militia involving the collection of materials on Polish homosexuals and their milieu. Ryszard Kisiel’s output is covered in the film “Kisieland” by Karol Radziszewski.


Photographic cycles Indian-Shaman woman, Junk, Fakir, Le Cabaret Travesti, 1987
Header, 1987
slide projection
courtesy of the Queer Archives Institute

The costumed and staged photo sessions which Ryszard Kisiel carried out in his flat with the participation of his friends can be read on several different levels; as a subversive, queer performance for the camera, but also as a group game in defiance of the oppression and boredom of the late Polish People’s Republic. Their form shifts fluidly from a nearly Classicist adoration of the beauty of the male body to an ironic, cabaret camp. The second slideshow comprises a cycle of photographs which purport to be the trailer for a fictional film is also shown. The role of background screens is played by close-ups of different parts of the body, while text is made with cheap, adhesive letters. The formal effect is surprisingly refined and brings to mind the works of the Polish neo-avant garde. It was during the creation of this series that the iconic screen with the slogan “We want porno, not ORMO, Viva homo, down with ZOMO” was created as an expression of protest against Operation Hyacinth (a secret operation of the communist police to create a database of homosexuals).