It is about  creating moments of recognition. Almost a delicious and delightful sense of reverse-traumatism. Anti-traumatism. Flying so far gone, its actually earth bound illusion. Barbara Kruger as a detonator of some kind of feeling or understanding of lived experience; a dealing, a confrontation with the complexities of power and social life, that in terms of visual presentation,  purposely avoids a high degree of difficulty, yet with finesse straddles the thin and non-linear line between comedy and tragedy.

"During the early 1980s Barbara Kruger perfected a signature agitprop style, using cropped, large-scale, black-and-white photographic images juxtaposed with raucous, pithy, and often ironic aphorisms, printed in Futura Bold typeface against black, white, or deep red text bars. The inclusion of personal pronouns in works like Untitled (Your Gaze Hits the Side of My Face) (1981) and Untitled (I Shop Therefore I Am) (1987) implicates viewers by confounding any clear notion of who is speaking. These rigorously composed mature works function successfully on any scale. Their wide distribution—under the artist’s supervision—in the form of umbrellas, tote bags, postcards, mugs, T-shirts, posters, and so on, confuses the boundaries between art and commerce and calls attention to the role of the advertising in public debate."

Kruger is known for thick, white Helvetica ultra-condensed letters on a black background to write out statements regarding  power, gender roles, social relationships, political issues, consumerism, and individual autonomy and desire. A subversion of slogan, gender and the “normal”  that is mocking, thought provoking and pierces through the veil of mundane banality that is the daily bread and reward to most; a pacification of their fear of not having enough fuel to heat their cave in the winter:

"Since the late 1990s, Kruger has incorporated sculpture into her ongoing critique of modern American culture. Justice (1997), in white-painted fiberglass, depicts J. Edgar Hoover and Roy Cohn—two right-wing public figures who hid their homosexuality—in partial drag, kissing one another. In this kitsch send-up of commemorative statuary, Kruger highlights the conspiracy of silence that enabled these two men to accrue social and political power.'

“Know nothing, forget everything, believe anything,” “Plenty should be enough,” “In violence we forget who we are” , “If it screams, shove it,” “If it vomits, starve it,” “If it sees, blind it,” “If it laughs, choke it,” “If it cries, drown it,” “If it sighs, shame it,” “If it loves, buy it,” and “If it moves, fuck it”, “The globe shrinks for those that own it,”  “Between being born and dying.” …”You make history when you do business,” and “A rich man’s jokes are always funny.”

Tom Sachs

…Denying the optimistic implications of Darwinism, Nietzsche pointed to man’s “ontological predicament”: “Man is a rope, tied between beast and overman — a rope over an abyss.” Caught between the all-too-human and the superhuman, man, if he is not to despair, must stretch across an unbridgeable chasm to the revalued ideals of the overman. Nietzsche himself felt mocked, even in madness, by this impossible struggle. As all-too-human he knew only anguish, terror, loneliness, desperation, disgust, “the great seasickness” of the world without God.

"In the fall of 1976, Kruger abandoned art making and moved to Berkeley, California, where she taught at the University of California for four years and steeped herself in the writings of Walter Benjamin and Roland Barthes. She took up photography in 1977, producing a series of black-and-white details of architectural exteriors paired with her own textual ruminations on the lives of those living inside. Published as an artist’s book, Picture/Readings (1979) foreshadows the aesthetic vocabulary Kruger developed in her mature work."

This last phrase was picked up by Sartre in his first novel Nausea, a classic of existentialism. Walking in the city park one day, Roquentin was overcome by the nausea of the meaninglessness of life. Looking around him, he concluded, “Every existent is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness and dies by chance.” He was forced to the unhappy conclusion that the key to life is its fundamental absurdity. Man as man has to reach towards being God in order to fulfill his aspirations, yet with God dead and the world as it is these aspirations are limitations cast back in his face as an absurdity. Sartre’s reluctant conclusion is that “man is a useless passion.” …

"BK: The brevity of the text is about cutting through the grease. I just want to address people in a very forthright manner. It is why I always use pronouns, because they cut through in the same way. Direct address has been a consistent tactic in my work, regardless of the medium that I'm working in. I try to deal with the complexities of power and social life, but as far as the visual presentation goes I purposely avoid a high degree of difficulty. I want people to be drawn into the space of the work. And a lot of people are like me in that they have relatively short attention spans. So I shoot for the window of opportunity."

Q: One of yo

amed artworks ends with the line “Who Laughs Last?” What do you think is the answer?

Barbara Kruger: I don’t know. There were a lot more questions that led up to that one! Overall, I think artists are reflections of the times that contain them. I read the newspaper every day, I see what happens in the world. I’m interested in that difference between road rage and violence, and how it can warp depending on different situations. I’m interested in the capacity to adore and to destroy that’s in everyone. In the end, I always say I try to make work about how we are to one another. That’s the broadest statement I can possibly make.

"And then the art world moved on, having relegated her work to an era that had passed, even as her influence continued to be felt in the work of later artists like Shepard Fairey and Banksy. The renewed interest in Ms. Kruger — also demonstrated by the book publisher Rizzoli’s recent release of a comprehensive monograph — seems to her “arbitrary on a certain level,” she said. Referring to the art world, she added: “It has all of the gossip and buzz of the stock market. It’s all about rumor and innuendo, possibility and speculation, and the promise of profit.” Born in 1945 in Newark, Ms. Kruger studied with Diane Arbus and Marvin Israel, a former art director for Harper’s Bazaar, before she began working..."

Q: How else has the power of images changed?

Barbara Kruger: Well, I’ve been interested for a long time in the way pictures tell us who we are and who we want to be – and who we can never be, too. But time online has changed people in incredible ways. I really see a difference in the attention spans that people have, particularly young people, who I teach at a university. Just look who goes to movies — a lot of people go to “event movies,” but other kinds of narrative don’t hold them. I think sustained narrative is in a real crisis. Sometimes I ask my students, “Do you ever think you’d be interested in going to a movie that’s not about you?” They’d rather go on Twitter and talk about what they’re doing. I don’t say that judgmentally. It’s just a way cultures have changed.

"...this particular installation really points to excess. do you need that next purchase, do you need that botox, do you need re-hab, do you feel better because you do yoga but make a million bucks? it is about the high end wealthy culture of excess today. certainly installing this in east hampton hits right to the core of the group of people she is making observations about. it might be about the world we live in that wants instant gratification including the access to texting and social media right now. the relevancy of the haves and have-nots too. is she is making you think or more to the point hitting you right between the eyes. regardless, i got a kick out of it. jessica found it annoying and ridiculous. i guess that what art is all about."

…A second symptom is mystification, the conscious or subconscious masking of the true nature of things. When a man feels his lack of basis, it leads to alienation, and when for all intents and purposes he ignores this and deals with other people on the premise that he has a sufficient basis, it leads to mystification. What is “normal” to him he takes as his “norm,” makes it an absolute, judges others who act differently as “abnormal” and treats them accordingly.

"...but people in seattle had 'chutzpah' back then. they had xerox machines and they had paint and they had working arms and legs. they also had brains - you know, those things that are connected to those hand you use to punch those keyboards? they are actually connected to your brain! did you know that? it's a shocker, all right! the billboards in question we sexist adverts and pro-smoking (so dangerous, ya know? we liberals don't like cigarettes. WE think YOU should do as we say! think of the children!). there were also a flurry of army recruiting billboard ads because back then the military wasn't 'cool' like it is now. so, they actually were advertising like mad to get enough cannon fodder in the ranks. they made terrific targets. so "ironic', ya know. so, some enterprising young arty-farty weirdoes attacked one night." - Art Chantry

…Put another way, if there are no universals or absolutes then “normality” is also relative and must be dictated by an arbitrary absolute created either by the stat or by the consensus of the population. This is true whether “normality” refers to morality or sanity, badness or madness. One man’s “normality” can become an implied or explicit judgment of another man’s “abnormality,” whether mental or moral. Or, the assertion of one man’s “abnormality” may be an assertion of freedom from the other man’s “normality.” A man’s refusal to admit any degree of “abnormality” in himself leads to the process of rationalization required to maintain his “normality” at the expense of the other man’s “normality.” This process tends to rationalize violence, for men justify their mistreatment of others by considering them as “abnormal” simply because others differ from them.

"All the Beats were aware of the metaphor of insanity; they tempted it through drugs, through poverty and suffering, and finally through writing. Despite the fact that real insanity is invariably tragic and debilitating, the notion of the disaffected mind has a romantic sense. There is an honesty and Zen simplicity to the demented mind; we see this charming simplicity in 'Kaddish' when Naomi tells of serving God a bowl of lentil soup. If you believe the normal world is corrupt, insanity is a path to purity."

This has profound implications in our culture. C. S. Lewis warned that in a society where law has objectivity, a man convicted under law can serve his sentence in jail and then demand to be released on the basis of the same law by which he was convicted. But if a man is judged to be “sick,” he must serve his time, waiting until the man in a white coat discharges him. Yet, if it was this very man who committed him and “sickness” is not objectively determined, to whom does he appeal?…

" these examples done by the original crew were instant classics. seattle was treated to a small orgy of altered billboards. it finally died away with added police protection, and utter boredom. the whole city went back to sleep. my point here is that these anonymous people created a media storm of attention to the political viewpoints and even entertained the populace with their sneaky efforts. they became folk heroes. it's was brilliant and so easy. why aren't we as creative today? are we so spoonfed and braindead that we only turn to downloads for creative insight? " Chantry

“…I wasn’t sure Jerry really said it. Maybe I was dreaming. But further questioning established that there was a demonstration scheduled for the stock market and the plan was to throw money. It was Abbie Hoffman and Jim Fouratts’ brain child. Abbie had plugged it big on Bob Fass’ late night radio show. What did this have to do with the Pentagon Demonstration? The National Mobilization paid for both our plane tickets and we work for them, so what does throwing money at stock brokers have to do with the upcoming antiwar march on the Pentagon?

"I was joyous. This was a new way to demonstrate, a theatrical turn of politics, that invaded sacrosanct places and turned them into a stage set with great props. Better yet, the demonstration against greed took only one night to organize on the radio and at a cost of about a hundred and fifty bucks."

I felt nervously at home on Wall Street, having once worked there in a mail room. Maybe some fellow worker would recognize me?

We lined up waiting for our turn to get out on the balcony. But then the private police tried to close us down. They knew why we were there and they weren’t going to let us use the facilities for our demonstration. They said the balcony was now closed for repairs.

“Hey, the only reason, you wont let us in is because we are Jewish,” declared Abbie Hoffman, who looked and was dressed like a handsome Jewish cowboy.

“Yeah, I can tell he hates Jews just look at his hair. He’s a Nazi for sure.”

Reporters are taking notes. The guards’ picture was being snapped again and again. We were calling him a Jew hater and surely the accusation would reach Jerusalem.

The guard retreated and we walked out on the Stock Exchange balcony. Below us the millionaire brokers, apparently tipped to our presence, took notice and began gathering. Abbie then handed out the money, mostly five’s and ones, and we tossed them over the edge. They went slowly fluttering down into the brokers greedy hands. And they piled on top of each other trying to grab a fiver.

Chantry's no-frills posters and album covers are raw on the surface but belie a classical approach to composition that renders them timeless. Shunning computers and often working with shoestring budgets, he is a traditionalist at heart. The results are powerful collisions of refracted type and period imagery that have garnered him international attention.

Trading halted. The immense floor of hi-speed greed was now paying attention only to me and my new friends. I thought I had wandered into a surreal Italian film about modern alienation and charismatic despair. When we ran out of paper and started throwing coins we were greeted with boos and derision. The guards came out and told us to make way for the tourists.

"we've always been a bit dented up in the northwest. we've come up with so many great stupid ideas that the world has adopted as "vernacular" (i hate that word) that the northwest is sort of the center of the unknown universe. go research it. it'll blow you away if you make the effort (not that anybody ever does). this place is downright strange. 'twin peaks' felt nostalgic immediately - it was just like home. so, it's the early 1980's and ronnie is in office and everybody in town in freaking out at the prospect. i know folks who actually split and left the country for good at that point."...- Chantry

Down on the sidewalk we burned money, danced, and gave millions of press interviews. We told the world we were from a new generation that laughed at money and lived free. Some onlookers complained that if we wanted to get rid of money, why give it to rich stock brokers.

“Better give it to me.”….” ( Stew Albert )

“The fourth pillar is the belief in the self-sufficiency of man. A persistent erosion of man’s view of himself is occurring. The fact that man has made so many significant scientific discoveries points strongly to the significance of man, yet the content of these same scientific discoveries underscores his insignificance. Man finds himself dwarfed bodily by the vast stretches of space and belittled temporally by the long reaches of time. Humanists are caught in a strange dilemma. If they affirm the greatness of man, it is only at the expense of ignoring his aberrations. If they regard human aberrations seriously, they have to escape the dilemma raised, either by blaming the situation on God (and how often those most strongly affirming the non-existence of God have a perverse propensity to question his goodness!) or by reducing man to the point of insignificance where his aberrations are no longer a problem. During World War II, Einstein, plagued by the mounting monstrosity of man against man, was heard to mutter to himself, “After all, this is a small star.” He escaped the dilemmas of man’s crime and evil but only at the price of undermining man’s significance. A supreme characteristic of men today is the high degree of dissatisfaction with their own views of themselves. The opposition to determinism is growing not because determinism explains nothing but because it explains too much. It is a clutching constriction on that which man feels himself to be. Arthur Koestler attacks it as “ratomorphic,” Viktor Frankl as “modern nihilism” and Noam Chomsky as “the flat earth view of man.” ( Stephen A. Diamond )

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