Following the artist Natalia LL's trail through her New York circles of the late 1970s, Radziszewski, the Warsaw-based artist of the contemporary generation, pieces together a portrait of the artist across the Atlantic and her uniquely intimate practice.
Natalia LL traveled to New York City in 1977 on a Kościuszko Foundation grant, which granted her audiences with intriguing art-world personalities as she defined her own artistic position between the two worlds. Her perspectives on feminist art and consumerist themes as an Eastern European artist in the U.S. were entirely different than those of her western counterparts. Natalia LL's sensual images of herself eating a banana had different implications for Americans, who had no insight into the banana as symbol of luxury and prosperity in communisms' hard times, or its becoming a fetish in the process. Leo Castelli, the legendary art dealer and collector, saw her work and declared, 'America is not ready for this'.
For Karol Radziszewski, an artist whose work focuses on gender roles and queer themes, the inclination toward Natalia LL's bold approach was a natural one. He decided in 2011 to follow her trail through New York, with notes and photographs detailing what she had done and whom she had met. This began establishing parallels between their artistic practices. Radziszewski found their stories quite similar, each of them hailed as new-breed artists from Eastern Europe whose treatment of gender studies is essential in their artistic practice.
The research trip proved fruitful. In cooperation with Residency Unlimited and the Polish Cultural Institute in New York, Radziszewski documented meetings with artists Vito Acconci, Carolee Schneemann and Marina Abramović, who shared memories and impressions of Natalia LL. The film he has made pays subtle homage to her, while providing a view into the contemporary art game and suggesting how it has changed since her era.
Natalia LL (born 1937) is a visual artist working with photography, experimental videos and installations. Her abundant, multifaceted oeuvre might take its motto from one of her texts from 1987: "Art is the search for freedom. Freedom is a goal in and of itself, and art realizes that goal." Her work builds conceptual meaning on seemingly straightforward messages. Intimate Photography, an installation derived from Pop Art, has strikingly erotic overtones bordering on pornography. Early projects created in 1971 and 1972, titled Consumer Art and Post-consumer Art, have the model perform activities such as the consumption of suggestive foods: bananas, whipped cream, milk. The images were presented as photographic performances, much like a film, with the artist using photography as an imaginary language to reach a dreamlike realm where the activities reduce to pure aesthetics and sensual experience. Today, however, communist-era Poland of the 1970s comes across as a period of fierce awakening of consumer appetites, and an opportunity to create visuals to help sate them.
Karol Radziszewski (born 1980) lives and works in Warsaw, where he received his MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts in 2004. He works with photography, video, film, installations and creates interdisciplinary projects. His practice extends to magazines, artist books, fashion and curatorial concept projects. He is publisher and editor in chief of DIK Fagazine, dedicated to queer issues in the context of art and lifestyle. Radziszewski has exhibited at major institutions and festivals around the world, including the National Museum and the Zacheta National Gallery of Art in Warsaw, the Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna, the New York Photo Festival and the New Museum in New York, Bat-Yam International Biennale of Landscape Urbanism and the Cobra Museum in Amsterdam.
America Is Not Ready For This
Directing: Karol Radziszewski
Cinematography: Rafał Żurek, Sebastien Sanz de Santamaria, Johan Decaix
Editing: Marek Sobolewski
Music: Adam Walicki
Sound: Kamil Radziszewski
Editor: Agnieszka Le Nart, November 2011
Source: Wrocław Contemporary Museum, karolradziszewski.com