“Your Comfort is my Silence” analysis

In 1981 Barbara Kruger produced the image “Your comfort is my Silence”. This image is clearly a piece of feminist art but can also be applied to consumption. This work shows a man telling the viewer to be quiet. The man is trying to supress the women viewer by saying that if women stay quiet, than the men have nothing to worry about because their power will not be challenged.

The image is a perfect representation of the theme consumerism. It expresses how males can overpower women in society. The text explains it better by placing emphasis on more important words like “your” and “silence” because they are directed significantly. The image gives an example of consumption by displaying a sense of power and control over women and society. The image symbolizes the way in which larger industries can control their consumers. Appropriation is placing an image in a context with which it is not conventionally associated with forcing its viewers to create their own interpretations. This is what Barbara Kruger uses to embrace both image and language which is commonly used in advertising to convey different messages. This is evident in “Your Comfort is my Silence”; the first two words covers the mans eyes in order to remove identity and portray the idea that “all men are the same”. Kruger arranges the text in a collage format like an advert to convey a message of gender stereotypes, creating a work of appropriation.  Although just like the previous image, Kruger keeps the ambiguity of her images, allowing the viewer to construct meaning from the image and actively participate in the appropriation process of the work. This method is also used to distribute her work in the form of umbrellas, tote bags, postcards, mugs, T-shirts, posters etc, its purpose is to confuse people regarding the boundaries between advertising and art.  Krugers work have provided politics, social and feminist criticism on issues including religion, sex, racial and gender stereotypes, consumerism and greed and power.

In “Your Comfort is my Silence” the viewer has no idea what the image is about or what is being said and why but they are struck by just how demanding and direct the voice is and the backing image of a persons face adds to the power of the image. Krugers work looks like advertising but in reality are disputing the very ideas that society and those magazines are trying to sell. “Your Comfort is my Silence” shows the placement of shapes blocking the man’s eyes which eliminates his identity and reduces him to a generic symbol of masculine dominance and control.

“liberated men needed groovy chicks who could swing with their new lifestyle: women tried. they needed sex: women complied. but thats all they needed from women. if a woman got it into her head to demand some old-fashioned return commitment, she was ‘uptight,’ ‘screwed up,’ or worse yet, ‘a real bringdown.’ a chick ought to learn to be independent enough not to become a drag on her old man (trans. ‘clinging’). women couldnt register fast enough: ceramics, weaving, leather talents, painting classes, lit. and psych. courses, group therapy, anything to get off his back. they sat in front of their various easels in tears.“—shulamith firestone, the dialectic of sex, 1970.

(Gender Politics) In every conversation we have, in every deal we close, in every face we kiss” (Kruger, 2005). Her iconic images on billboards, bus tickets, t-shirts, posters, placards and screens, address this power and the way it “choreographs the issues of violence and control, of wealth and poverty, of hope and abjection” (2005). Works such as Your Body is a Battleground (Kruger, 1989) and Your Comfort is my Silence (1981) bring the workings of power and gender politics to the fore. Incorporating theories and practices of design, and minimising colouration to black, white and red, she juxtaposes an economy of image and text in seemingly serendipitous ways. She uses popular culture as both subject (content) and tool (technique) to maximise the immediacy of reception. Her characteristic photographic imagery reinforces the power of images to dislodge. Thus as much as an undermining and engagement with political issues of the social body, there is also an intervening and exposure of dominant practices of media exchange in the economies of market consumption and subjectification.


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