I SHOP THEREFORE I AM

I SHOP THEREFORE I AM

Barbara Kruger: The power of speaking the truth

by Ellie Howard

Barbara Kruger is a maverick in the truest sense of the word; known for her large-scale photographs juxtaposed with blazing ironic truisms, she has been challenging the power structures of consumerist culture for decades.

Being confronted by one of Kruger’s graphic accusations is alarming; you become very aware you are being watched, painfully judged. “You You You” her work screams from its red frames, “YOU” are the wasteful, the distasteful, ignorant consumer. The voice of the work is instantly recognisable, however the source of the anti-capitalist propaganda is not always so clear– her work mimics our internal voice of authority.

You can see Krugerisms everywhere, behind street style brands ‘OBEY’ and ‘Supreme’, iconic fashions of skater counter culture. She famously slapped the words “It's all about you, I mean me, I mean you” over consumer icon Kim Kardashian. Revealing her thoughts on reality television, and its toxicity. In 2006, she partnered with Selfridges to create anti-marketing campaign; signposts littered the shop floor whispering, “Buy Me, Ill change your life”.

The fascinating thing about her work is it’s ability to lead many lives – each work has new meaning when arranged in a different context. Her work is equally at home on posters, t-shirts, signboards, billboards and flyers, she asks questions that still remain unanswered. In a world consumed by image and appearance, Kruger’s work is perhaps more relevant today, than it was 30 years ago.

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (You kill time), 1983, © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (You kill time), 1983, © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (We are your circumstantial evidence), 1981, © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (We are your circumstantial evidence), 1981, © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (You make history when you do business), 1981, © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (You make history when you do business), 1981, © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your life is a perpetual insomnia) 1981, © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (Your life is a perpetual insomnia) 1981, © Barbara Kruger, Courtesy of the artist and Skarstedt

Barbara Kruger: Early Works is at Skarstedt, London, from 10 February – 11 April 2015

 

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