Barbara Kruger

Serpentine (London), Feb-Mar/24

London is buzzing with school holidays and celebrations of the year of the Dragon, coinciding with the first new moon of the lunar calendar and Chinese New Year. I embraced a positive mood despite the drizzling weather and departed to visit Barbara Kruger’s exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery.
I shop therefore I am, 1987/2019
Upon entering, a large single video on an LED panel showcased her iconic work Untitled (I shop therefore I am), 1987/2019. The image constructed with puzzle pieces (perhaps a nod to pixels) undergoes dynamic changes, replacing the original slogan with variations like “I need therefore I shop” and “I shop therefore I hoard”, accompanied by the resonating sound of a cash register. It instigates the viewer to assess their relationship with consumerism, the dynamic of desire and power.
Untitled (I shop therefore I am), Barbara Kruger, 1983
That’s the way we do it, 2011/2020
The walls in this room are covered by a vinyl digital wallpaper Untitled (That’s the way we do it), 2011/2020, incorporating 5000 images sourced from the internet. Kruger employed distinctive questioning, challenging authorship and authenticity in the digital age.
Barbara Kruger arranges the gallery space to allow the visitor to actively shape the interpretation of her work as they navigate through it. One becomes integrated without noticing.
Untitled (That’s the way we do it) (detail), Barbara Kruger, 2011
Remember me, 1988/2020 
Kruger’s deliberate use of sans-serif fonts, inspired by her time at Conde Nast’s Mademoiselle magazine, such as Helvetica Ultra Compressed, Helvetica Black, and Futura Bold Italics, makes powerful visual statements. Barbara Kruger reinvents, remakes and reclaims past and recent work to avoid the label Retrospective. She loves the everyday and its repetition, always stating that her future project is today.
Untitled (Remember me), Barbara Kruger, 1988/2020
Pledge, Will, Vow, 1988/2020
In deconstructing and reconstructing important familiar documents, the artist questions the truths about society, control and our relationship with others. Stopping at certain words and replacing them, Kruger plays with how language is used in popular culture, politics and formal contexts.
Untitled (Pledge, Will, Vow), Barbara Kruger, 1988/2020
Your Body is a Battleground, 1988/2020
The original work showing a female face divided in the middle, with one side positive and the other negative with the words. Your Body is a Battleground was created in 1989 for the Women’s March in Washington in support of women’s reproductive rights. The present work with new associations consistent with the 21st century alludes to men, women and non-binary individuals. Kruger believes in a multiplicity of vulnerable bodies.
The transformative power of language is further explored, where phrases like “My body is money, my body is a piece of fruit, my beliefs are short and sweet” replace the original, sparking a cascade of questions and doubts about our bodies.
Untitled (Pledge, Will, Vow), Barbara Kruger,1988/2020

Our leader,1987/2020

Originally, the work was made to illustrate how we are to one another and how no one should be shocked by anything if we look at our histories and relationships between us. The puppet face of the leader morphs into a distorted mask, while phrases like “Our lover, Our Loser, Our Liar, Our Lawyer” alternate on the screen, accompanied by an impulsive metallic sound. The piece invites contemplation on our shared histories and relationships.

Untitled (Our leader), Barbara Kruger,1987/2020
No Comment, 2020
I immersed myself in a display that weaved found video and audio into a dynamic and relentless mix. The curated snippets, sourced from social media platforms, were disrupted by thought-provoking questions, bold statements, and insightful quotes, urging reflection on our contemporary consumption of information and visual culture.They provoked inquiries about power dynamics, capital, and the subjective notion of value in our society. Each element of the display worked together to stimulate the exploration of these critical themes, leaving viewers to review the intersections of media, influence, and societal values.
Untitled (No Comment), Barbara Kruger, 2020
Forever, 2017
Within the confines of the Education Space adjacent to the exhibition area, Forever unveils the artist’s exploration of advertising techniques, often using architecture to immerse viewers in her installations and deliver a direct address. In this all-encompassing installation, spanning the gallery’s walls and floor, Kruger seamlessly blends her own words with those of literary figures. A quote from George Orwell’s 1984 is on the floor, while a poignant excerpt from Virginia Woolf’s 1928 lecture adorns the longest wall. Through a magnifying glass effect, the initial word, ‘YOU,’ commands monumental attention. Kruger succinctly notes, “Architecture is my first love. I try to spatialise ideas.”
Untitled( Forever), Barbara Kruger, 2017
Thinking of  You.I Mean Me. I Mean You, extend beyond the gallery walls. Kruger created designs for three London’s black cabs, digital installation, Silent Writings, 2009/2024 presented in collaboration with Outernet Arts.

Maria Donato for London Art Walk
February 2024