Taking its title from one of the works by Natalia LL, the exhibition "States of Focus" concentrates on the artist’s own image, which she has been exploring almost since the beginning of her practice. Although the strategies of using her own appearance have changed over the years, the Wrocław-based artist consistently situated her face and body at the centre of her art. The exhibition confronts her oeuvre, produced over the span of more than five decades, with works by over 40 artists from Poland and countries of the former Eastern Bloc. This juxtaposition makes it possible to not only attentively analyse the transformations which women’s self-portraiture has undergone in art history, but also to polemically approach the practice of the main heroine.
Based primarily on photography, video and actions for the camera, the exhibition concentrates on the moment when female artists point the camera lens at themselves. Consequently, it raises questions about performance of the self, strategies of representation, and constructing and de-constructing the image of a woman. Highlighting the historical continuity of these experiments offers a new perspective on the currently ubiquitous phenomenon of selfies, which permeates not only social media, but also the artistic discourse. By presenting the historical and international context of self-portraiture, the exhibition problematises the ambiguous gesture of self-analysis and poses questions about female artists’ self-definition and the perception of women in society.
The invited artists investigate issues such as objectification of the female body, scopophilia, emancipating and oppressive aspects of sexuality, narcissism, acceptable and reprehensible social roles, the right to self-determination and individual freedom. An important facet of the exhibition is the influence of iconography and mythology on the forms of representation, the role of tradition and the potential change of status of the contemporary woman artist. The variety of perspectives on the female experience forms a multi-thread story that weaves together the social and political role of women and private narratives.
By concentrating on the phenomenon of self-presentation in art, the exhibition "States of Focus" invites the viewer to not only reinterpret the practice of the outstanding artist from Wrocław, but also to revisit her oeuvre in dialogue with canonical works that have defined the perception of women’s art in Central and Eastern Europe.