America Is Not Ready For This (2011-2014)

archival materials, documentary film, series of video interviews, photographs

The tradition of modernism and neo-avant-garde are faced in the project, in which Radziszewski is confronting both – Polish and Western – narratives of art history. Starting from the subversive work of Natalia LL, Radziszewski raises a series of questions on issues such as gender, feminist art, conceptual art, queer and East-West relations and their impact on the art world in the context of the Iron Curtain. America Is Not Ready For This is an open archive in search of parallels between the artistic experiences of Natalia LL and Radziszewski, as well as an attempt to examine the rules of the positioning of artists in the art world, both at that time and today.

More about the project:

One wouldn’t really expect that 34 years after Natalia LL visited New York on a Kościuszko Foundation scholarship there would still be some traces of her visit to be uncovered. In spite of that, in 2011 Karol Radziszewski decided to hit the trail and meet the artists and art dealers she met in 1977. With only a couple of black and white photographs and names of people she met, jotted down while listening to Natalia’s stories, Radziszewski undertook a unique research trip, which became a starting point in the search for parallels between his and Natalia LL’s artistic practice.

The exhibition is the result of these meetings and consists of documentation of the interviews with i.a. Vito Acconci, Carolee Schneemann and Marina Abramović, correspondence with artists and archival photos from the United States. All of this forms a new image of an artist crucial to Polish art history. “America is not ready for this” – the words of Leo Castelli, a famous art dealer and collector, uttered while viewing Natalia’s works, didn’t necessarily discredit her art in the eyes of American spectators. Instead we can think of her visit, during which she both investigated art and tried to define her own artistic position, as the clash of two, completely isolated worlds. On the one hand – the New York bohemian lifestyle, where the cult of the artist ( the white, heterosexual celebrity) still prevailed. On the other – the perspective of a female artist from Europe, specifically from the Soviet Bloc, where people thought that the issue of women’s emancipation has already been solved and normalized within the system. One of the most important works of Natalia LL from 1972 – “Consumer art” belied both of these beliefs. Eating a banana in an erotic way was one thing for Americans, while meaning something completely different to the citizens of the Polish People’s Republic.

What is interesting, the time that has passed between these two journeys did not completely level these differences. To Karol, Natalia’s story seemed so interesting precisely because of the similarites of their experiences. Both were proclaimed as the representatives of new phenomena in Polish art. At the time of her visit in New York Natalia was interested in the feminist discourse in art, which was in fact relatively unknown in Poland. Karol is perceived as one of the most important artists working on queer themes. In America these two issues were (and are) understood differently than in Poland – this difference is one of the topics of the conversations between Radziszewski and the artists interviewed on the occasion of his search for Natalia’s traces. The film, consisting among others of clips from these interviews, is a special homage to Natalia LL, but one that is indirect and deprived of monumental character. His task is not only to reconstruct the memories of the 1977 journey, but also to take a close look at the rules of the art world game, a game organizing the existence of artists – both then and now.

Curatorial text by Piotr Stasiowski

Originally published in "Jednodniówka Muzeum Współczesnego Wrocław" on November 30, 2012. Publication accompanying Karol Radziszewski's America Is Not Ready For This exhibition at Wroclaw Contemporary Museum (30.11.2012–4.02.2013)

Project in cooperation with Contemporary Wroclaw Museum and Residency Unlimited with support from Polish Institute in New York