In a 1973 video called "Consumer Art," the Polish artist Natalia Lach-Lachowicz, better known as Natalia LL, eats a banana in exactly the way that you worry it looks when you eat a banana in public. Parts of the video are on YouTube, but in the very likely case that a video of this nature doesn’t jive with the culture of your open office, you’ll do just fine with the mental image.
Just as your boss and HR department might not love it if you watch this on company time or space, the Polish government wasn’t having it, either. Last week, government authorities removed the piece from viewing at the National Museum in Warsaw and called the museum head, Jerzy Miziolek, to the Ministry of Culture, the Associated Press reported yesterday. Natalia LL’s video, as well as a 2005 video by the artist Katarzyna Kozyra of a woman walking two men on leashes and on all fours, were both deemed “improper,” according to the AP.
To some people in Poland, the removal of the pieces is an example of not only censorship but also the conservative government’s fight against art and culture. “We are entering a new era of censorship by this ultra Catholic rightwing Polish government which lets the Catholic Church to be in charge of sexual education and brainwashing of a young generation…” Polish photographer Slywia Kowalczyk wrote on Instagram. That caption, with hashtags like #bananowyprotest and #bananagate accompanied a picture of Kowalczyk with a banana in her mouth.
Like Kowalczyk, other protestors are also sharing banana selfies; #bananowyprotest has close to 200 posts as of this writing. People have also taken to the streets to protest: On Monday night, Warsaw locals met outside the museum for public displays of banana-eating and to wear peels on their heads.
Aside from its sexual associations, Natalia LL’s piece was also a critique of Poland’s communist rule, when food shortages made even bananas a luxury item for average people. “For me, Natalia's works are a view on feminism,” photographer Justyna Piechuta told CNN. “However, the banana that was used in the image is also a symbol of freedom.”
Miziolek announced yesterday that the art would go back up on view until May 6, at which point the museum’s 20th- and 21st-century galleries will undergo “rearrangement.” Miziolek not only denied previous reports that he’d been summoned to the Ministry of Culture when the piece was removed, according to CNN, but he added that changes in the museum are not influenced by the Ministry.
There’s always controversy in the banana stand.