Critics Back

Spirit in the machine, Łukasz Ronduda, 2006

We can describe the work of Natalia LL from the 70ties as suspended between “surrealistic” polish conceptualism of the 60ties, based on the conception of Imagination (the artist often emphasizes her connections with the art of Jerzy Rosołowicz) and rationalized, scientificized conceptualism of the 70ties (of which Natalia LL was considered to be the main representative). The artist was not interested in transcendental explanations of artistic activity (the conceptualism of the 60ties) but rather searched for the existential ones (characteristic for post-conceptual attitude). According to me, Natalia LL has performed a specific reactivation of romantic attitude in a prospect of excessively technicized and rationalized neo-avant-garde art of the first half of the 70ties. The artist has reckoned that art in the course of excessive rationalization and technicization looses the spiritual, intuitive element, gets rid of unpredictable, illogical, difficult to rationalize, mystical aspects that had always been associated with it. Natalia LL has noticed a similar process of reduction and impoverishment in human existence, in culture and civilization surrounding him. Her art, saturated with specific humanism, holism, the desire to depict multidimensionality of complicated human existence, endeavours to oppose this processes. Agata Bielik Robson has written: “the ethos of the romantic is to take the side of the weak against the predominant forces of the enemy: science, reduction, suspicion, disenchantment, deconstruction. (…) The essence of the ethos is though not only the fight itself, but the salvation. (…) The victory means something more than only the repulse of the enemy, in reality the stake if full assimilation and absorption (of the enemy, note ŁR). Using the strategic language composed by Michel de Certau, we would say that romanticism is a tactic that works always on the enemy’s field but in order to appropriate the field.” (Agata Bielik Robson, Duch powierzchni, Cracow 2004, page 45). Among others that’s why Natalia LL has been taking the advantage of the language of rationalized conceptual art. One should emphasize that she was the first polish artist who has individually begun to work with the new media of mechanical registration and distribution of images, such as the movie or photography. The artist has willingly used the “modern languages of peeping and reduction in order to give them “their own drive”. Discarding the excessive scientification of art (mixing it with other discussions and rationalisms such as: semiotic, logic, mathematics, cybernetics, linguistics, knowledge of the technology the artist has valorised other types of recognition (e.g. intuition) as well as the sp] eluding the rational analysis (eroticism, body, sexuality, dream, reverie). Whereas as far as she was concerned it was not a matter of naive protest against the processes of modernity but of its new formulating and the location (of course after some redefining) of the ousted values in it; a matter of renewed “enchanting the world’.

Natalia LL in the series “Permanent Formalization” (“Permanentna Formalizacja”) performs a film and photographic registration of a number of common activities considered “banal” (moving, consumption, copulation, sleeping, pronouncing words etc.). Natalia LL enters the constructing the meaning dialogue with the reality that previously lacked that meaning and shows the impossibility of “cold”, impersonal mechanical view (specific for the scientificized medial conceptualism). One should emphasise that the conceptual thought (making the impression of objectivity, universality) contained in the strategy of “Permanent Formalization” over the semiotic process was balanced with the artist’s fascination of basic process of giving a sense to the world by the art, by creative activity of the party. In this work already the conceptual levelling of the marked and marking element has a very conditional and existential meaning at Natalia LL. It is a story about the contiguity and symbiotic dependence of life and art. The reality subordinate to the matter (functionality and technique), which we are all immersed in “appears as the opportunity to activate the projection power, to light up (…) as well as the negative impulse forcing the active romantization and domestication of the world that has lost the warmth of magic Lebenswelt.” (Bielik Robson, op. cit., page 147). Annexing the reality within the realm of art (within the confines of permanent formalization) was supposed to serve a purpose of subordination of the first one to the art and not the other way round (as it has happened in the other strategies of rational conceptualism).

Natalia LL in the “Consumption Art” (“Sztuka konsumpcyjna”) continues her fascination of the issue of transformation, alteration or the “romantization of reality”. Andrzej Lachowicz has written about this work: “the outcome shown by Natalia is at least surprising: for we do not see the reality shown but some other, imaginary” (Andrzej Lachowicz, Natalia LL, Sztuka 4/2/75). “Consumption Art” presents the limit of rational conceptual analysis. The work is a visualisation of a relation between rationalistic consciousness (of the conceptual art) and its ousted “romantic shadow” (body, eroticism, sexuality, desire) that is full of tension and conflict.

The work is based on the conflict of the coexisting realities, creates the area of suspension between two extreme poles: the impossibility of full rationalism (disenchantment) and irrationalism (still present promise of recurrent enchantment of the world).

The movie “Artificial Reality” (“Sztuczna rzeczywistość”) originated as a result of transformation (with the help of cinematographic tricks) of the appearances of the reality (the images of the naked artist) registered on the film reel into the new hybrid-erotic quality. The works from the “Artificial reality” series are focused around the attempt to build a new artificial, alternative reality, constructed by the fantasies that frankly “oppose to the one that is real”. Natalia LL points the fantasy, imagination as a specific rational-intuitive human mental activity in the course of daydreaming and night dreaming but also the artistic creativity creating different kinds of visualizations of our conscious and unconscious thirsts and desires. According to the artist this kind of images are the most authentic, the most primary to our psyche, they simply constitute the core of psychical reality (of course marginalized by the techno-science). That’s why Natalia LL bases her strategy of the “Artificial Reality” as well as “The Dreaming” series on the this kind of imaginary activity “denying the rules of true reality”. The improbable (in the context of true reality) images constituted “in opposition to the world are not simply unreal: they are anti-real, provocatively contrasting to the one that exists”. The mental reality has a privilege of denying the rules of true reality. The fantasy (conscious and the dreamy one) mixes with the realty, derives the substance from it, transforms it, gives the meaning, reaches a compromise, succumbs is a constructive part out of psychic experience in contact with the world, is a source of creativity. For Natalia LL the art becomes the area on which the fantasy can arise without the necessity of compromise with the Rule of Reality.

According to Natalia LL the art is nevertheless not the transcendental being, autonomic to the true reality but is its constructive, fickle, phantasmagorical component. The component as natural (and real) for the human existence as characteristic for the behaviour unpredictable, illogical, emotional, spiritual elements.

Łukasz Ronduda

Translated by Natalia Dobryszycka and Jarosław Fejdych