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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » February 27, 2015
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Bananas, Eroticism and Aging
February 27, 2015   
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Secretum et Tremor, a new exhibition at the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, offers a fresh look at work by Natalia LL, one of Poland’s most original contemporary artists. Natalia LL (real name Natalia Lach-Lachowicz) rose to prominence in the late 1960s, making a name for herself with unabashed ventures into erotic art. Her favorite media are photography and film, and the new exhibition is arranged as a cross-section of her work, putting her early projects next to newer and less famous ones that she produced in the 1990s and 2000s. The exhibition gets a unique feel from music by Richard Wagner played in the background and through inventive room arrangements designed by Małgorzata Szczęśniak, a renowned European set designer famous for her contribution to Warsaw’s Nowy Theater.

Items on show in Secretum et Tremor include LL’s most famous project, a series of photographs entitled Consumer Art and depicting an attractive female model in an autoerotic, exhibitionist performance as she devours a banana and a gooey dessert. Consumer Art has been widely interpreted as a study of female sensual pleasure, but it is also seen as an ironic reference to pornography and the consumerism of the title. During the communist era in Poland where nearly everything was in short supply, the consumerist angle was also seen as a condemnation of the political system. One of LL’s favorite props, bananas were particularly sought after and hard to get in communist Poland.

LL says she has always been interested in eroticism as a realm “where people can be fulfilled and which produces a new human being.”

In her more recent work, LL continues to focus on the human flesh and eroticism, but this time she puts them in the context of aging. Her Transfiguration of Odin (2009) takes from Germanic mythology, centering on the Norse god of war, wisdom, poetry and magic. One of the creators of the world, Odin was sometimes nicknamed Shifty-Eyed and often portrayed as an old man with two ravens perched on his shoulders, a wolf at his feet and a spear in his hand. In LL’s photographs, however, Odin is old, tired and dressed in a camp outfit. The model is Andrzej Lachowicz, a conceptual artist and LL’s long-time partner. His sagging flesh is shown in close-ups, which viewers find both obscene and oddly alluring. LL posed for the pictures as well, as a victorious Valkyrie. Transfiguration of Odin comes across as a thought-provoking study of the passing of time, human existence and the fragility of our own bodies.

The exhibition takes its title, Secretum et Tremor, from an item that could be described as a visual poem whose letters are made up of vanitas themes. Another work, The Eroticism of Trepidation (2004), is composed of a series of pictures of a nude model wrapped in a yellow plastic pipe; the pictures are superimposed over one another. This is a theme that LL used in some of her earlier projects, but this time the scenes are reenacted by a mature model.

Other work by LL on show at the Center for Contemporary Art includes Birds of Freedom, inspired by the tragedy of 9/11, and short films such as Impressions (1973), Artificial Reality (1976) and Body Topology (1967). Natalia Lach-Lachowicz, born in 1937, pursues photography, experimental film, video, painting, installation, sculpture, graphic arts and performance art. Her work has been exhibited at prestigious venues including the Tate Modern in London and the Centre Pompidou in Paris.


Until April 19
Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art; 2 Jazdów St.
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