Critics Back

Grammaticalizations of Natalia LL, Jan Świdziński, 1975

LL presented her new work at Galeria Współczesna in Warsaw. The consistency in which the artist’s creative efforts during the past years, as well as the related implications of that work for contemporary art encourage a deeper analysis of the problems under discussion.

We are interested in three stages of contemporary art:

1. Dematerialization

2. Analysis

3. Grammaticalization

The first stage belongs to the period of minimal art and relates to the ultimate exhaustion of expressiveness in traditional art (the retrospective trends of recent years indicate that the only future for art is in a return to that which has already been discovered).

The second stage, driven by conceptual art, is an analysis of the function of art — art-theory, meta-art, art-language — in which one has to consider whether:

A: art is a picture

B: art is a language

View A has a long tradition, and is not limited to art. Even in the early work of Wittgenstein, language is seen as a picture of reality. Such an attitude, common until the 18th century, is still valid today, as exemplified by comments in art and culture magazines, such as Kultura or Sztuka.

View B stems from the contemporary analysis of language pertaining to the field of linguistics and logic. Here is a brief definition of language: language is neither more nor less a faithful copy of reality. It is arbitrary in reference to reality. It is not through similarity, but through the current conventions, the lexical and grammatical rules that we recognize objects. The rules (language) create speech, speech, in turn, changes the rules which are not fixed. The question arises whether the contemporary communication theory includes visual arts. The artistic activity of Natalia LL, who debuted a few years ago, suggests the possibility of creating a new grammar of art after the period of conceptual analyses.

The essential rule is to replace the painting or a graphic convention with the photograph. A photograph is simultaneously a language and a picture. It has an encoded grammar (rules) determined by the parameters of the photographic equipment. In contemporary society, as indicated by McLuhan, the photograph and television with increased frequency serve as substitutes for language. The photographic sign is subject to different laws of perception than its linguistic equivalent. The understanding of the former is indirectly dependent on the reality that we know from an experience which has had some importance for us.

Yet objectivity in photography, which is so often emphasized, requires the use of a conventional code governed by generally accepted rules (only such a code will not be perceived as a code, but as a true image of the world). This, however, creates a new opportunity, which Natalia LL takes advantage of. A photograph “devoid” of the morphological layer through the use of conventional language identifies the viewer with reality. The introduction of discreet changes in morphology, which the artist uses in the context of reality, introduces changes in reality itself. This process is similar to the mechanisms governing language in that linguistic rules define speech which, in turn, allows changes of both linguistic and broader social rules which shape these language rules.

Thanks to the photograph, such as those created by Natalia LL, this process is accelerated and is more suggestive, as it addresses direct, visual contact with reality.

Natalia LL’s grammaticalizations thus become a platform for broader consideration of the latest art and allow one to better define its function — the function of the reality which creates art, as well as the one which is influenced by art.

Jan Świdziński
June 1975

Translated by Jarosław Fejdych
Proofreading Kevin Hannan
Polish art Copyright, Autor’s Agency Poland, Galeria Współczesna MPiK, Warszawa 1975.