Recently, a protest was organized by the Polish community outside the National Museum of Warsaw over the removal of select artwork. What stands out about this protest is that everyone protesting was eating bananas. The bananas are important because they are featured in the in 1973 video “Consumer Art” by Natalia LL, which was removed from the gallery. The video installation “Consumer Art” depicts a model suggestively eating a banana as well as other foods while seemingly naked. Having been in the museum for several years the new museum head, Jerzy Miziolek, removed the work because he is “opposed to showing works that could irritate sensitive young people.”
The museum claims the removal to also be due to a “rearrangement” of their 20th & 21st-century galleries but the Polish population is attributing the removal to censorship of artwork. In this case the censorship occurred due to the works provocative and sexual nature. Censorship in many museums has become less prevalent in today’s society as it has become more open-minded and accepting, which is why the piece’s removal after having been displayed for years feels like a step backwards. The video empowers women’s expression of their sexuality by reducing the role of masculinity in the video to the symbol of a banana, whilst the woman literally consume their own desire. Not only a comment on feminism, the work is also a political critique. At the time of the work’s creation, Poland was still under communist rule and so the work was a comment on the occurring food shortages. Bananas were seemingly not just chosen due to their phallic nature but they were also a very luxurious imported good at the time.
This protest didn’t only take place in front of the museum but also became an online movement, with people posting photos of themselves eating a banana under the hashtag #bananaselfie to defy the museum’s decision. It should be noted that “Consumer Art” was not the only artwork removed, along with it were two other works by female artists. One of other works was a 2005 video by Katarzyna Kozyra, showing a woman walking two men dressed as dogs on a leash. Presumably, that video was removed under the same context of being “irritating to sensitive young people.” Censorship is an infringement on artists right to freedom of expression and is something no artist, male or female, should have to experience in this day and age.
WORDS BY KENDALL SCARPA