Interview: Barbara Kruger Talks Her New Installation And Art In The Digital Age

Interview: Barbara Kruger Talks Her New Installation And Art In The Digital AgeBelief+Doubt

 

I did work in magazines for years, and it's where I learned the fluency that I work in.

 

Could you elaborate on the experience of installing these full-room wraps with today's technology, especially without the limitations you may have had when you started doing this in 1991? 
When I first started in 1991, it was all silk-screen. It was much more expensive, obviously. It's much easier and cheaper to print digitally with vinyl. There was one silk-screen bed in Ontario, it's the largest in North America, and it's right outside Toronto. When America outlawed billboards for tobacco and alcohol, the billboard business went through a big change. At the same time that they were losing all of those accounts, digital became more prominent.

The early digital print was very bad. It was nowhere near the resolution and sharpness of silk-screen. After about eight years, it finally got there, but it took a while. If you're doing long distance viewing, it doesn't make a difference, but back then, if I wanted a digital image with vinyl, it just wasn't good enough. Working digitally offers so many more possibilities. It's terrific.

Belief+Doubt includes the Malcolm X quote, "Give your brain as much attention as you do your hair and you'll be a thousand times better off." You included the same quote on a bus wrap in 1997 in New York City. What about its message resonates with this installation, fifteen years later?
Well, I love that quote, because it's both serious and funny. It's both critical and pleasurable. I think that's a great way of making meaning.

What made you decide to center the installation around the equation, "Belief+Doubt = Sanity?" 
When you come down the escalator, that first wall immediately says "Belief+Doubt = Sanity." It's one of the first readings you do. I think that belief and doubt shouldn't exist as a binary; it shouldn't have to be one or the other. The contestations over the centuries about belief, what you believe, who believes what, and who doubts what, have become so determinant. It translates to who lives, who dies, who rules, who wins, and who loses. Certainly, it's alive and well in the election debates. It has been for years.

What is the purpose of the smiley face in Belief+Doubt? 
I think that it serves as comic relief, but it can also be used ironically. In the middle of more serious questions, having a smiley face works both as an absolute "smiley face" and an irony, too. In this case, it's an absolute "smiley face," and if you notice, they're placed over the restrooms. That is always a welcome thing for people to see. I wish there were more smiley faces welcoming people in downtown Manhattan!

Tags: barbara-kruger, interview, interviews, installation, art, hirshhorn-museum, washington-dc, belief, doubt
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