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“dla Natalii LL” Galeria 86, Łódź


Sweetish, usually too potatoish, unless it overripens too much – that is what repetition seems to taste like. However, there must be something exceptional in it if the insipid pleasure it offers causes us to try to taste it again. Certainly this pleasure is not limited to the organoleptic delight that comes with the eating of a banana — the objects by whose means those acts of repetition are achieved. Something like an excess of pleasure seems to have been combined with the banana in order to make it an instrument which allows us to reach much greater – and sometimes much more dangerous – sweetness than the sweetness offered by this insipid/potatoish taste of imported fruit.

The trivial banana releases an excess of pleasure, playing the part of a fragmentary object. It is its consumption that forms the promise of transgression and the pleasure it gives. This is what happens in Natalia LL’s work Consumptive Art (1972). Do we not start playing games with the system if we make a substitute of something that our phallocentric culture has made not only invisible, but also untouchable? Li Natalia LL’s work such substitutes are also sausages or ice-cream, not to mention the most famous of them – the banana – and even jelly, being licked off a finger which is a literal illustration of the clammy/lustful substance of pleasure that is spilled during foreplay with phallocracy. It is probably this spilling of pleasure beyond the limits imposed on us by social order that provokes people to repeat the game whose main instrument is the banana, even in the current situation when playing games with oppressive political, economic or libidinal regimes is not the order of the day any more. In 2006 a group called Sędzia Główny [The Referee] and Karol Radziszewski – independently of one another -produced a couple of works which echo Natalia LL’s Consumptive Art.

The banana becomes something more here – a truly transitional object of art. In the Referee’s work entitled Hommage á Natalia LL, in one of the three pictures of the series the banana becomes an instrument of union – the union of two bodies, combined into some kind of a hyper-feminine double body. Or perhaps the banana becomes a transitional object that indicates a different kind of sexual disparity between the two bodies that seem to be unisexual. In this case the banana also heralds the release of the excess of pleasure in the game played by the characters who take part in it — the excess that is substantialized by meat and jelly which the characters consume. Meanwhile, Karol Radziszewski in his performance called Spróbuj tego [Taste It] invited the audience gathered in the gallery to eat a banana – he invited people to give themselves the pleasure whose instrument the banana is as an organic substitute on the one hand and as a transitional art object on the other. Radziszewski asked the audience not only to reach satisfaction by means of their own mouths in public, but also under the watchful eye of the camera which lovingly registered their deeds. During the performance promises of little transgressions could be seen in quasi-erotic games and sometimes even in gambols in which the participants began to engage. Thus by means of such promises the taste of the banana provokes us to repeat much greater pleasures which art lets us experience.

Jarosław Lubiak