Wednesday, December 28, 2005

we get it.

while the gallery remains similarly empty of objects, the contrast between barbara kruger's show and ACCA's previous headline show, martin creed's the lights off, could hardly be more striking. while the minimalist darkness of creed's piece might be seen to recapitulate the gloom of a london winter, kruger's work is a visual and (and aural) taste of new york's brash public advertising and opinionated conversations.

kruger's show consists of five rooms. the first two have scrolling text projected onto the floor. the next has a list of "products" stuck to one wall. the fourth is the exhibition's centrepiece, with text on all four walls and the floor, and the final room houses 'twelve', a video piece of conversations projected simultaneously onto all four walls.

in the final two rooms especially, the viewer is dwarfed and overwhelmed by the work. she has taken the scale of billboards and cinema screens, and put them in the same room as you. while in both cases it is technically and stylistically interesting, the resulting experience is not especially pleasant.

while creed's darkness (if we credit it with artistic authenticity) was something primal, kruger's verbal onslaught is a strikingly modern voice, the voice of new york, the voice of public advertisisng (it is no coincidence that we have seen her work on billboards). to me, it is the voice of talks-too-much, the voice of tv. the only excuse, surely, for using such an already-overused and strident voice is if you have something strikingly original to say.

while at the time, in the early 80s, getting such an ironic and subversive message through this familiar medium was certainly novel, the tune has pretty much stayed the same, and is now starting to feel tired. perhaps it is a testament to her success in the intervening decades that this technique, of presenting a message that is basically anti-capitalist in the mode of capitalism (advertising), has become an artistic commonplace.

kruger certainly does not seem gently witty the way creed does. hers is an art that is shouting to be heard through the noise. as one of the characters in 'twelve' says "life is noisy, it's quiet when you die". in the time since she found her noisy voice however, contemporary art has found it doesn't need to shout, but kruger seems not to have heard. is it any wonder?


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