When we think of avant-garde regarding the visual context of art and its impact on the society today, we think of Barbara Kruger. Her conceptual work during the 1970s and 1980s has established a path of visual context for the society we know today. She was undoubtedly a pioneer in setting new standards in graphic design industry and postmodernism art, as well as the one with insightful perception on social behaviorism psychology and the changes that were going to come.
Using the idioms and phrases, she altered the perception of observing, I’d say deliberately disturbing the cultural norms and corporation establishment at the time when nobody really cares about or grasp the idea that beauty could be an effective social control device. Her work mainly consists of b&w photographs, layered with placeholders and captions, addressing the cultural constructions, self-image and communication. And this is something Barbara had mastered during the 1980s and (non)intentionally developed a blueprint of modern self-expressionism on social networks such as facebook, instagram, etc. An artist or a mechanic, anyone can post a collage or an image today and paste the caption with a straightforward or hidden message, and that’s exactly what everybody does. We don’t care about the eventual impact or the consequences. We have the tools incorporated into our social lives and we eagerly use it to figure and construct the image of oneself or self-image.
Significance of Barbara’s conceptual thinking and what we create on daily basis today are two non-comparable sets of data’s. Almost anything we see on fb and instagram today is rather cliché or sensational, with no larger importance to a specific group or community. And if it does make an impact, most likely it’s with an attitude and negative approach towards the liberal ideas and movements. Barbara’s work on contrary reflects the positive tendency in the society, trying to destabilize the patriarchal and cultural norms that have led to essentialism and gender inequality.
Ahead of her time, she taught us the way we fight against logocentrism and set the rules in drawing attention to dichotomies in society through art and creational work. Its more than visionary and more than art. It’s a power of visual context one can make, only to interrupt the sameness of the traditional society and move forward in the direction of self-evolution and development.
author Ivan Bjørn
Book cover designer and contemporary visual artist. Over 500 publications, prints, book covers and artworks worldwide. www.nadavisual.com