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barbara kruger
barbara kruger
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The American artist’s first Scottish show.

Barbara Kruger’s work has often been seen as a critique of the media and consumerism. But another strong underlying theme is a fascination with conversational language, or, as Kruger puts it, “How we are to one another.”

Her latest exhibition is a large film installation called Twelve. Each wall in Glasgow’s cavernous Tramway gallery space has a projection of a giant talking head. There is one person per wall – so the walls are literally talking to each other. “It’s a spatial piece. Sitting in the middle you have to turn your head to sit and read,” she explains.

The project consists of 12 conversations, each 12 minutes long, with a CNN-style line along the bottom explaining the subtext of the interactions. The results are episodic and short, and groups vary from politicians to art critics to students. The film was a two-day shoot in LA, where she’s been living for more than 16 years.

Twelve, installation view.

Although scripted by Kruger, the conversations come across as natural. The actors “had a teleprompter for the script so they look like they’re talking to each other”. The work focuses on what people say and how they say it, zig-zagging between verbal violence and tenderness.

Kruger reiterates that the media-infused techniques are rather conventions that people can connect to. “We grew up with TV,” she says. “There’s been a sea change in the past five years - so many exhibition spaces have become dark rooms. But my work could use any medium.” Kruger already had a very prolific career creating photomontage images before trying out installations in 1991, then film pieces in 1997.

Kruger’s artworks are successful on so many levels – the graphic immediacy, the directness of her language, the giant scale of the work. This latest film installation is just another string to a very healthy bow.

Francesca Gavin 11 August 05
Barbara Kruger: Twelve is at the Tramway, Glasgow, until 26 September 05.
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