An Interview with Barbara Kruger

Critical Inquiry 17 (2):434-448 (1991)


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? Barbara Kruger is an artist who works with words and pictures. W. J. T. Mitchell, editor of Critical Inquiry, is Gaylord Donnelly Distinguished Professor of English and art at the University of Chicago

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