Barbara Kruger is thinking of you, and consumerist culture (but mainly you) in her latest exhibition at Serpentine South Gallery Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You. which opened to the public last week, marking the artist's first institutional show in London in 20 years.
Although the show encompasses the full breadth of Kruger's career - from her rarely seen paste-ups of the early 1980s to her digital productions of the last two decades - Kruger's militancy in only referring to the show as somewhat of an [anti] retrospective only adds intrigue and power to her writings as works are embraced with a fiercely antagonistic edge that undoubtedly proves Kruger's very much still got it.
Subtlety was never Kruger's forte but in a 'post-truth' age, it's assuring to know her dizzyingly provocative slap-you-in-the-face-knock-you-for-six body of work still delights and excites thanks to the artist's sensational messaging on post-consumer culture delivered with only a kind of feral brilliance Kruger could rustle up.
Barbara Kruger's art, by its very nature, calls out Orwellian society for what it is, destructive, fraudulent and a little short of satanic. Not all messages and slogans included in the show are Kruger's own, but they do all fit one agenda; to stand against national degradation. 'If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever' reads out the floor in one room. One point for guessing the author of the quote. The same room is trampled with more text on all walls, making you feel boxed in by words upon words and more words screaming at you: 'THIS IS ABOUT LOVING AND LONGING. ABOUT SHAMING AND HATING... ABOUT WHO GETS WHAT AND WHO OWNS WHAT. ABOUT WHO IS REMEMBERED AND WHO IS FORGOTTEN. HERE. IN THIS PLACE. THIS IS ABOUT YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU.'
Mixing a presentation of moving image works, spite-specific texts and multiple soundscapes, the exhibition is an all-stimulating treat to the senses that's unique in its devotion to firing at capitalism's already bloodied chambers, just as much as it sobers us to the world we've unknowingly forged.
Just as Kruger's practice explores the complex mechanisms of power, gender and class, her work bites, chews and spits out the dystopian reality that pervades the everyday. Reworked pieces include Untitled (I Shop Therefore I Am), 1987, and Untitled, (Your Body Is A Battleground), 1989 while new works muse on 21st century modes of content creation and consumption.
Kruger's work has always been relevant, but in a self-described 'post-truth' world, her art isn't just thought-provoking, it's compulsory. Essential. Dare I say, even necessary for anyone stumbling down the memory lane of teen angst with a side order of disbelief at how society has so obviously lost its way. Not only is this a chocker of a show, but it's also a delightful shocker of one.