PLEASE CRY, BY BARBARA KRUGER
In an expansive text installation, Kruger combines her own texts with quotes from George Orwell, James Baldwin, and Walter Benjamin.
In the center is a sentence taken from Orwell’s 1984 book:
“If you want an image of the future, imagine a boot trampling on a human face, forever. “
This nightmarish vision of a totalitarian state originated from Orwell, directly following the Second World War. The statement was intended as a reckoning and reflection on the National Socialist dictatorship in Germany. In his novel 1984, Orwell issued a universal and timeless warning to society to question and critisise any form of state violence and control. By citing this well-known quote, Barbara Kruger also recalls the universal dangers that can arise at any time from repressive structures and nations. Given the current war in Europe, this warning about violence brought about by a totalitarian state seems all the more prescient.
The literary quotes are accompanied by short texts written by the artist that have been adopted from social media news. They address visitors directly and refer to the discrepancies between self-perception and self-alienation, for instance, “Please cry” or “Is that all there is?”. In contrast to Mies van der Rohe’s classical and austere architecture, Kruger employs her own distinctive aesthetic while fundamentally questioning the consumer-oriented, uncritical ways of life that characterise many of today’s societies.
*Text taken from the official website of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
“Untitled (Beginning/Middle/End)” by Barbara Kruger
It is a large-scale text installation that includes 3 video channels.
The artist intervenes 3 official texts of the bureaucracy of the United States of America: the text to write a will, the text to venerate the flag, and the text that people recite when getting married.
Each text is on a different screen. Each text is typed letter by letter and each key word is constantly exchanged, generating possible alternatives in the reading of these “embedded literatures” in the public imagination.
The hesitation in the constant correction/editing of the animated texts is existential, humorous and also fatalistic. Each text animation is embedded in one of the 3 wall texts that make up the installation:
“IN THE BEGINNING THERE WAS CRYING”
“IN THE MIDDLE THERE WAS CONFUSION”
“IN THE END THERE WAS SILENCE”
I wanted to show the work of Barbara Kruger because I consider that her work is a constant demand, a protest that works like crying, the texts that cry on the walls, the words are like tears that run through the architecture. Tantrum texts, whim letters, sounds of sobs, walls of screams.
Her texts go beyond the moral, they are not about slogans or duties, they are more questions, or existentialist sentences that open thought and generate debate and doubts. This textual vulnerability somehow resonates or echoes the vulnerability with which we cry.
Something that interests me is how the text is interrupted, how the text breaks, and how this is similar to crying. Crying is like a moment of oxygenation in which the speech is interrupted. She is interrupting the architecture, or even interrupting famous quotes, or legal texts… she is continually interrupting the text itself. She invites you to read with the body. You access the text by fragments, your body is interrupting the text. Isn’t crying the interruption of speech, or the broken linearity of thoughts?