In 1979 Kruger began to utilize found images, mostly from mid-century American newspapers and magazines, with words collaged over top of them. Having established her mature style, she produced many similar artworks in which black and white were the main colors. There main issues she centers on are politics, mass media/advertising, and gender equity.
Being a women in society is a constant battle with one’s image and appearance playing on a woman’s mind repeatedly. Although there are some who can break away from this continuous cycle of staring, examining, judging, adjusting, possibly crying, binging, purging, and every other action. Most women will be stuck in this rut for most of their adolescence and adulthood. Barbara Kruger exhibits this struggle in “Your body is a battleground”.
Her photograph was originally a poster for a pro-choice march that took place on the 9th April 1989 in Washington, D.C. Although now its purpose is to voice her opinion to protect women’s rights through an image that raises issues about power, patriachy, stereotyping and consumption. “Your Body is a Battleground” questions the viewer about feminism by using a picture in which her message is contradicting the idea that culture has given, this is the idea concerning ideal beauty as advertised in magazines.
This image exemplifies Kruger’s interest in addressing the political issues I have given examples of previously. Using a model’s face as the central image, she gives the image additional meaning by dividing the photograph into sections: on the right and left the image reverses from positive to negative, and from top to bottom the face is divided into thirds with the slogan “Your body is a battleground.” Barbara Kruger criticises the objectified standard of symmetry applied in modern times to feminine beauty by the media and advertising. In this Kruger criticizes society’s view of beauty “having to be symmetrical.
In my opinion the image is a very strong one that represents our personal fight against societies standards and its “rule” on how our bodies should look (against how we really want it to look like). Kruger fought for womens rights over their bodies which is the purpose of this image. I can relate to this statement by understanding we do care about our appearance way too much, rather than accepting ourselves the way we are. We fight in the wrong ways (which is against our natural body rather than against the fake standards of society that controls the way we should look and feel about our bodies.
Kruger & Gender Politics
The image is showing contrasting actions for example positive and negative, good versus bad etc. This is done through the split image of the face, the figures characteristics such as her hair and make-up display 1950’s style. Her gaze is directed straight ahead making eye contact with the viewer. Kruger stresses her commitment to the issue related to the image by the words “Your Body is a Battleground” in the centre. The image relate to an array of political and social stances. Ideas of power are societal structure are often referenced in her work. Since power cuts through all aspects of society, women are forced to defend themselves in society. The image’ text refers to the constant fight in which women take part in. This fight is to do with womens rights to choose what happens to with her OWN body and is one that revolves around power. The issue is to do with a struggle between men and women “over the same valuable piece of real estate – the female body”. This highlights womens strive to gain power but also projects their anxieties at the same time. This idea shows the constant push between the sexes; women fight to have control over their physical bodies as well as their place in society, while men fight to maintain their dominance over women in society. But my question relating to this would be, why do men have so much so called control over women/womens bodies? What gives them the right to tell us what to do or dictate what we can and connot do (infact, it works both ways but do we see women doing this to men? The answers no)? The male gaze turns females in sexual objects that are not permitted to think for themselves. Their thoughts, opinions and behaviours stem from the CONSTANT judgements of men. Krugers image “Your Body is a Battleground” challenges the issue by depicting the female figure in confrontation with the viewer (the subjects eyes glare directly at the viewer in defense, and this is why this image is so powerful). Krugers work is united as most of its stands for the same set of morals and values. “Your Body is a Battleground” potrays notions of power, patriarchy, stereotyping and consumption. Its purpose is to use images from the media juxtaposed with text to explore the power of imagery.
Kruger and the Public Sphere
Barbara Krugers work belongs in the public sphere as it is shown to the public on billboards, advertisments, musuems, television and magazine etc and is widely recognised by many, especially females, openly discussing the issues that she covers in her art.
Below is an interview with Barbara Kruger by W. J. T. Mitchell in which she answers a question about her art and the Public Sphere
MITCHELL: Do you think of your own art, so far as it’s engaged with the commercial public sphere-that is, with advertising, publicity, mass media, and other technologies for influencing a consumer public-that it is automatically a form of public art? Or does it stand in opposition to public art?
KRUGER: I have a question for you: what is a public sphere which is an uncommercial public sphere?
MITCHELL: I’m thinking of a utopian notion such as Habermas’s idea of the liberal bourgeois sphere of the culture-debating public. You may recall how he opposes that to a culture-consuming public, which he thinks of as mainly consuming images and as being spec- tatorial. He contrasts it with the culture-debating public, which he associates with the literary.
KRUGER: I live and speak through a body which is constructed by moments which are formed by the velocity of power and money. So I don’t see this division between what is commercial and what is not commercial. I see rather a broad, nonending flow of moments which are informed if not motored by exchange.