Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Your Body is a Battleground by Barbara Kruger / A Thing of Beauty

Barbara Kruger

Barbara Kruger was born in the United States in 1945. She worked as a graphic designer for magazines but turned to art in the 1980s to explore both gender and consumerism. Her work generally consists of photographs with big bold type over them. Produced in 1989, the art work today is called Untitled, though for obvious reasons it's often referred to as "Your Body is a Battleground." For further information, see Barbara Kruger.

Untitled (Your Body is a Battleground)


Review

Kruger is obviously not concerned with subtlety. By splitting the photo with its negative, she reinforces the battle motif splayed across the work. Kruger emphasizes how the developing technology of mass media shapes our culture. When Kruger created this work with the obvious slogan across it, she brought to our attention the way that everyday media shapes and controls our ideals. Awareness of these forces is the first step to combating them.

Reflection

When art was divorced from worship, our culture tried to ground art in beauty. Nietzche critiqued any form of absolute values as a power play by those attempting to impose those values. While many artists attempted to preserve art for beauty alone, many artists (and most critics) could not ignore the powerful social effects of art. Since no grounds for beauty could be established, artists began to focus solely on the social aspects of their work (see my post on the "Work of Art in Age of Mechanical Reproduction"). While many people are frustrated with the current state of art, we can appreciate it more if we understand why they're doing what they do. More importantly, the return to social value in today's art can provide a chance for Christian art to truly dialogue. What's key here is that we dialogue with today's art rather than dismiss it.

Acknowledgments

I'm indebted to The Art Book produced by Phaidon for many of the facts surrounding the painting.

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