The concept of this book was conceived together with the idea for the exhibition Doing Gender, which opened at the end of September 2013 in Warsaw's lokal_30 gallery. The editors of the publication, Agnieszka Rayzacher and Dorota Jarecka, created a volume collecting interpretations of Natalia LL's works in the context of her 60s artistic practice.
In that period, Natalia LL had an impact on changing the language of art. Using photography as a medium of objectively recording reality, she recorded the most intimate experience of human beings – sexual intercourse.
The authors invited to contribute to this book - Kazimiera Szczuka, Marika Kuźmicz and Krzysztof Pijarski - wrote essays in which they examine different aspects of the transformation which occurred in the work of Natalia LL at the turn of the 60s and 70s. They analyze the importance of this process - for the artist, for the art of that time, and for contemporary culture.
The exhibition Doing Gender consisted of works of Natalia LL that had not been presented before, such as photographs from the cycle Topology of the Body (1967). These images, which are an attempt at objectively capturing the human body, were crucial for the artistic practice of Natalia LL. The artist incorporates existential, erotic, and, in a broader perspective, social themes as well, in the area of analytical art. These photographic records and films were among the most original pieces in the field of Polish conceptualism. This topic was undertaken by Marika Kuźmicz in her text Ktoś inny to ja (Someone else is me), where she also inquires into what is spontaneous and what is staged in Natalia LL’s concept of "permanent registration”, and whether it is possible to distinguish reality from mystification within the photographic image.
Photos from the cycle Fotografia Intymna (Intimate photography) were shown for the first time at PERMAFO gallery in Wrocław in 1971. In his text about this exhibition, Krzysztof Pijarski reflects on the originality of the space arrangement chosen to present that set of works and the meanings generated by introducing viewers to the narrow, cramped exhibition box.
The images from the cycle Rejestracje intymne (Intimate Registrations) were a visual form of a manifesto of the new female sexuality - active and not passive, overt and not covert, joyful and not "mandatory". Natalia LL has created such femininity herself by introducing her own body into the boundaries of the image. This revolution in the sphere of the female subject which took place in the early 70s, not only in the artistic practice of Natalia LL, is analyzed by Kazimiera Szczuka in her text Rewolucyjny rok 1974 / Revolutionary Year 1974. In the erotic sphere, woman was previously associated with objectification. Natalia LL's gestures can be perceived as exhibitionistic acts of courage that violated the moral schemes of Polish society at the turn of the 60s and 70s. The woman, aware of her sexuality and the sense of power resulting from it, violated the conventions of social systems based on the subordination and entered the process of becoming the subject.
The boldness and uncompromising ways in which Natalia LL presented sexuality paved the way for Polish female artists taking up these issues in the 90s. The exhibition Doing Gender was accompanied by a screening of the Karol Radziszewski film America Is Not Ready for This, which is a result of his search for traces of Natalia LL’s stay in New York, where she had the opportunity to get to know the most important people of the artistic scene, thanks to a scholarship received from the Kościuszko Foundation in 1977. Radziszewski conducted a series of interviews with artists and critics who remembered her. His film is not only a memory of Natalia LL, but also an image of the art of 70s emerging from those interviews. The cooperation of these two artists has been archived in the book in the form of an interview conducted by Karol Radziszewski with Natalia LL, which is a fragment of his recordings.
The book is a supplement to the study and research on Natalia LL's artistic practices. The gap was caused by an incomplete picture of her works from the '60s, resulting from the decision of the artist, who did not disclose her works from the Topology of the Body cycle for many years.
Natalia LL Doing Gender
Ed. Agnieszka Rayzacher and Dorota Jarecka
Language: Polish / English
Publisher: Lokal Sztuki / lokal_30
Source: lokal_30, ed . AS, 4.06.2014, transl. GS, June 2014