8 Scandalous Reasons Why Natalia LL Became Famous
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An exhibition of works by the unforgettable Natalia Lach-Lachowicz, who uses the pseudonym Natalia LL, is on show at Warsaw’s Centre for Contemporary Art. This famed creator, who is best known for her erotic art, played a key role in Poland’s current art world. The following facts clearly depict how and why.
1. Her food-based erotica challenged the conservatism and deprivation of the Communist regime
One of Natalia LL’s most famous works is Consumer Art, a series of photographs and videos showing female models flirtatiously putting foods such as bananas, sausages and jelly into their mouths. The nakedness of the attractive models and the phallic shapes of some of the food items create a clearly erotic atmosphere. This work of art challenged the conservativeness of 1970s communist Poland. The creator herself says that with this series she wanted to ridicule the obscureness of the communist system, in which obtaining such foods as bananas or sausages was often very difficult because of shortages.
2. She conquered the Berlin art world with her piece ‘Natalia ist sex’
Some of Natalia LL’s works consist of photographs of people having sex. Intimate Sphere is a series made in 1969 in which one can see her on a bed with a man during an act of physical love. The 1974 piece Natalia ist sex consists of numerous pictures arranged so that they form the titular German sentence, which simply means ‘Natalia is sex’. The photos present a woman and a man in various poses as they make love. This work was commissioned by a Berlin gallery and was appreciated greatly by those who ordered the piece.
3. Her exhibitions were censored on several occasions
Natalia LL’s provocative art often drew the attention of various censors, both official and unofficial. In 1971 an exhibition at Wrocław's PERMAFO Gallery presenting her erotic photographs was closed by a communist censor after being open just one day. Another exhibition was destroyed by overly interested security guards, who wanted to get a better look at Natalia LL’s photographs that were only visible through a peephole. Recently, a Czech politician called her works shown at an exhibition held in the Czech town of Zlin obscene and had them taken off display. After protests those works were eventually put back on show.
4. While she was often criticized and censored in her home country, she became a resounding success in several other nations
This scandalous creator’s art attracted much interest across the world. In 1975 a work from the series Consumer Art was featured on the cover of the German art magazine Kunst Heute. A year later a photo from that series was on the cover of the Italian contemporary art magazine Flash Art. Natalia LL’s works have been exhibited in Denmark, Switzerland and Canada, amongst others. Pieces by her can be found in the collections of such institutions as Paris’ Musée National d'Art Moderne, New York’s International Center of Photography and Cologne’s Museum Ludwig.
5. Her art was interpreted as a feminist manifesto
In the 70s, much to the surprise of its creator, Consumer Art became an important feminist work of art. The piece was, for instance, shown as a feminist symbol at the Frauen Kunst: Neue Tendenzen exhibition in Innsbruck, which showcased women’s art. Among the artists whose works were also presented at that exhibition were Carolee Schneemann, Annette Messager and Ulrike Rosenbach. Natalia LL herself, however, considers Consumer Art “a manifestation of the meaning of life and vitality” rather than a symbol of feminism.
csw zamek ujazdowski
6. She had a near-death experience which radically changed her outlook on the world
In 1978 the creator of Consumer Art was taken to hospital for an operation. Two blood transfusions were necessary and she barely survived the surgery. She doesn’t like to speak in detail about the illness that nearly took her life. She once said that she won’t mention the name of the sickness so that “it will not glory in its illusory, malicious power”. After this near-death experience she became disinterested in materialism and started to doubt the rationality of the world.
7. She began to delve into death and the supernatural world
The life-threatening experience prompted Natalia LL to take an interest in the supernatural. In the 80s she created works with mystic, sometimes even satanic, themes. In the Destruction series of photographs which was made in this period, the representations of her face bring to mind death masks or shrouds. For her supernatural-themed works Natalia LL drew inspiration from the writings of Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.
8. She included controversial elements of Germanic mythology in her art
Natalia LL sometimes refers to Germanic mythology in her works. The 1994 video Brunhild’s Dreams shows the artist piercing a banana with a sword to the accompaniment of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries. The 2009 photographic triptych Transfiguration of Odin shows Natalia LL’s aged real-life partner sitting nude and holding a mace in his hand, a nude young man with a mace and a shield and the artist herself wearing contemporary clothes and holding a sculpted human skull. This is an especially meaningful reference considering the role these symbols had in the Nazi ideology.
Natalia LL "Sacrum et tremor"
Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art
Curator: Ewa Toniak
Author: Marek Kępa