A Screening of Works by Natalia LL

A Screening of Works by Natalia LL

Natalia LL, Impressions (still), 1973.

A Screening of Works by Natalia LL

Admission starts at $5

Date
June 2, 2022, 7pm
172 Classon Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
USA

Please join us at e-flux Screening Room on Thursday, June 2 for a screening and discussion of films and videos by Natalia LL, curated by Agnieszka Rayzacher. The screening will be followed by a conversation between Rayzacher, Izabela Gola, and Lukas Brasiskis.

Natalia LL, a pioneer of avant-garde feminist art in Poland, is known worldwide for her witty critique of consumer society, investigations of sexuality and gender, and systematic experimentation with the laws of probability. Investigating aesthetic and erotic features of consumption, her works have a captivating yet perverse allure. Natalia LL’s film work is closely related to her artistic practice, spanning mainly photography and performance art. Her early pieces from 1970, Permanent Measurement of Time and Permanent Measurement of Every 1 km of the E22 Motorway are conceptual meditations on time and space—topics that became vital for the artist’s work in conceptual photography at the time. Marking the next major stage of her practice was Consumer Art, a performance-for-camera series developed from 1972 to 1975. A subversive take on consumerism in the light of the shortage of goods in communist Poland and the commodification of women’s bodies, the piece garnered Natalia LL popularity among second-wave feminist theorists and curators. Impressions from 1973 also addresses the experience of one’s own body, joy, and bliss on one’s own terms, and Artificial Reality, created two years later, is an interesting example of how Natalia LL introduced sensuality and subjectivism into the field of conceptual and experimental art.

Toward the end of the 1970s, the artist’s work began to concentrate on mystical and spiritual motifs, portraying herself and her body as an element of the cosmos. Performances from that period, which teh artist called “seances,” are more autonomous and frequently had a less direct relationship to the camera, although the awareness and necessity of film documentation remained vital for the artist. The first of a series of such seances, titled Dreaming, was held in 1978, and its film recording, Pyramid, was made in 1980. These actions took various forms: Natalia LL would sleep in the presence of viewers or in front of only the camera, or else she would photograph sleeping people. Around the same time, she created the piece Points of Support, set in a meadow in the Pieniny National Park, where the artist, nude, performed gymnastic exercises combined with a choreography. Each posture she adopted corresponded to a stellar constellation, thus building something of a bridge between woman and the cosmos. The same tendency, marked by an interest in ecology and natural energy, is also represented by two later video pieces: Voracious Cats (1994) and Menego (1997).

Of note is Natalia LL’s private revolution, taking place since the mid-1980s until today, which concerns the artist’s attitude to her own body and the passage of time. Her transformation is represented in photographic series and video works, such as Brunhild’s Dreams (1994), among other pieces. A forerunner of feminism in Polish art, Natalia LL has devoted uncompromising works to the body and sexuality, including in the context of aging and ageism, a topic almost absent from global art and public space, and seldom addressed by feminist theorists.

The screening is part of Revisiting Feminist Moving Image, a bi-monthly series at e-flux Screening Room aimed at revisiting the origins, contexts, developments, and impact of feminist video art and experimental cinema around the world from the 1960s through the present. 

The event is organized in partnership with lokal_30, Warsaw and the Polish Cultural Institute New York.

Films

Permanent Measurement of Time (1970, 35 seconds)
Natalia LL's first film work and at the same time her most minimalist, purely conceptual piece.

Permanent Measurement of Every 1 km of the E22 Motorway (1970, 2 minutes)
The work, created at the same time as Permanent Measurement of Time, is connected with the artist's important concept of objectifying reality by showing it on film or in photographs. At the same time it is connected with Natalia LL's aspiration to show everyday activities such as eating, copulation, speech, and movement.

Consumer Art (excerpts) (1972, 1974, 1975, 16 minutes)
One of the most frequently interpreted and distinctive works in Polish contemporary art, Consumer Art is an extensive photographic and film cycle developed in the course of three years. It depicts young women sensually licking bananas, wiener sausages, salted sticks, and ears of corn, as well as feasting on custard and jelly. The footage is varied—the majority of images are black and white and depict a single model in a tight frame, most often a blonde woman with a girlish appearance. Natalia LL also collaborated with a different model, a brunette who is often portrayed in wider shots with bare breasts. 

Impressions (1973, 3 minutes)
Natalia LL has been a pioneer in Polish art in looking at the female body through the gaze of a woman. The somewhat blurry film shows a naked young woman touching and playing with her breasts. This is an uninhibited image of sexuality that can give pleasure to the viewer, but at the same time, it is a record of a spontaneous discovery of one's own carnality, and the pleasure of the subject registered by the camera.

Artificial Reality (1976, 15'29'')
The work resulted from one of her photographic and film seances, as the artist called them. The use of the procedures of multiplication and the mutual overlapping of semitransparent images on photographic film produces the impression of movement: veiling and unveiling the private parts of the body, but also a sense of artificiality and subversion inherent in photography and film that records the image of reality and “falsifies” it at the same time.

Pyramid (1980, 2 minutes)
At the end of the 1970s, the artist’s work witnesses a change and enters the spheres of mysticism, mythology, and cosmology. Yet, the body continues to function as her primary medium and the performances are seldom performed directly for the camera, although the awareness and necessity of film documentation remains obvious for the artist. The first of a cycle of those seances, titled Dreaming, was conducted in 1978. The actions adopted different forms—Natalia LL would sleep in the presence of the viewers or with only the camera as a witness; she was also experimenting with sleeping in the pyramid. Those seances stemmed from the pursuit of reaching the subconscious—the artist very often noted down her dreams immediately after waking up. 

Points of Support (1980, 1 minute)
Natalia LL carried out the seance Points of Support, during which she performed nude gymnastics combined with choreography on a meadow in the Pieniny National Park. Each of the figures that her body adopted corresponded to a certain stellar constellation, building a bridge between woman and the universe.

Voracious Cats (excerpts) (1994, 3 minutes)
After 1990 the output of Natalia LL is marked by an interest in ecology and natural energy. The artist always loved cats, they were often the protagonists of her casual, private photographs. This video is one of the rare artworks with the participation of these animals. 

Brunhild's Dreams (1994, 9 minutes)
In this work Natalia LL impersonates for the first time Brunhilde—a character from Nordic mythology, the heroine of the opera Valkyrie by Richard Wagner, the artist's favourite composer. Through the brave heroine she talks about transience, ultimate matters, and the meeting of Eros and Tanatos. She uses a banana, a symbol of sexuality familiar from her earlier works, as well as kales and skulls, well-known symbols of death. 

Menego (1997, 7 minutes)
After the great flood that hit Poland in 1997, Natalia LL referred to this fact through her performance on the bottom of a dried-up reservoir on the Bystrzyca River. “Menego” is a title taken from the prose of the Polish poet Cyprian Kamil Norwid and refers ambiguously to drowning in water as well as drowning in the banality of everyday life. The artist sees art as a safeguard against spiritual drowning. 

Revisiting Feminist Moving Image is a screening series at e-flux Screening Room that revisits the origins, contexts, and developments of feminist video art and experimental cinema from the 1960s to the 2000s. The screenings feature a number of internationally renowned feminist experimental filmmakers and video artists. Aware of the different pace of development of feminist discourse in various parts of the world, the screenings accompanied by conversations with moving-image artists, art historians, and curators aim to inspire dialogue between various movements and waves of feminist moving-image art and to spark discussions on (g)local and transnational practices.

For more information, contact program@e-flux.com.

Category
Film, Performance, Sexuality & Eroticism, Feminism, Bodies
Subject
Video Art, Eastern Europe

Natalia LL (b. 1937, Żywiec, Poland) studied at the State High School of Fine Arts in Wrocław and received her Diploma of the Association of Polish Artists Photographers in 1964. Her media are photography, drawing, performance, and video, and her works have been classified as conceptual art, photo art, or body art. In 1970 she co-founded the PERMAFO Gallery in Wrocław. Since 1975 she is engaged in the International Feminist Art movement. She worked as a senior lecturer at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznań. Her work can be found in collections such as CCA Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, National Museum in Wrocław, National Museum in Gdansk, National Museum in Warsaw, Museum of Contemporary Art in Kraków, Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, Frauenmuseum in Bonn, Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, International Center of Photography in New York, and Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris.

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