Summer 2001

The stuff that surrounds us

Barbara Kruger

South London Gallery
2 February to 18 March 2001

The latest Barbara Kruger work to travel to the UK is a powerful and hypnotic video installation. In a small space, cacophonous multi-tracked vocals attack from all angles while confrontational slogans (‘Not skinny enough’, ‘Not cool enough’) are projected on to floors and walls, and duplicated in spoken word form by a racially diverse cast of talking heads across three video monitors.

Although a keen eye will recognise a debt to Jean-Luc Godard’s films and to installation art in general, Kruger is most obviously revisiting and reinterpreting her roots in advertising and design. Seen now, Power, Pleasure, Desire, Disgust lends the thematic thrust of Kruger’s work a renewed freshness and relevance. This show is a savage critique of the L’Oreal ‘because-I’m-worth-it’ attitude that deviously subverts the language of advertising by imitating it. As always, Kruger seems to believe that imitation is the sincerest form of battery.

Kruger (see Eye no. 5 vol. 2) is the undisputed goddess of Bold Futura Italic (the face that has helped ‘brand’ her work), and her slogans mimic and satirise the art of copywriting while angrily condemning the often rhetorical nature of advertising. Kruger’s art, at a time when Adbusters, Naomi Klein, FTF and Ken Garland inform the everyday vernacular of the ‘conscientious’ designer, is as ingenious and relevant as ever. By using the formulas of advertising as a means with which to critique advertising, she reminds us how important it is to question the stuff that surrounds us.

First published in Eye no. 40 vol. 10, 2001

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue.

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