Feminism, the Public and the Private

By Joan B. Landes | Go to book overview

11
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

____________________
For examples of Barbara Kruger's work, including several of the images discussed in this interview please refer to Love for Sale, The Words and Pictures of Barbara Kruger, text by Kate Linker ( New York, H. N. Abrams, 1990). This interview is reprinted from Critical Inquiry, 17/ 2 (Winter 1991), 434-48 by permission of the University of Chicago Press. Copyright © 1991 by The University of Chicago.

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