An Interview with Barbara Kruger
W. J. T. Mitchell
MITCHELL: Could we begin by discussing the problem of public art? When we spoke a few weeks ago, you expressed some uneasiness with the notion of public art, and I wonder if you could expand on that a bit.
KRUGER: Well, you yourself lodged it as the 'problem' of public art and I don't really find it problematic inasmuch as I really don't give it very much thought. I think on a broader level I could say that my 'problem' is with categorization and naming: how does one constitute art and how does one constitute a public? Sometimes I think that if architecture is a slab of meat, then so-called public art is a piece of garnish laying next to it. It has a kind of decorative function. Now I'm not saying that it always has to be that way--at all--and I think perhaps that many of my colleagues are working to change that now. But all too often, it seems the case.
MITCHELL: Do you think of your own art, insofar 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____________________