Barbara Kruger, Serpentine Gallery

‘It would be great if my work became archaic, if the issues that they try to present, the commentary that I’m trying to suggest was no longer pertinent. Unfortunately, that is not the case at this point.’ Barbara Kruger.

‘Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You.’ combines text, audio clips and memes to explore how we consume online and offline content.’

The exhibition has re/created past/present works by Kruger in digital and printed form displayed on huge LED screens, projections and fully wrapped rooms.

The digitalisation allows the works to infinitely deconstruct and reconstruct themselves. Works like ‘Untitled (I shop therefore I am)’ shatters into puzzle pieces, to be rebuilt with variations such as ‘I shop therefore I hoard’, ‘I am therefore I hate’, inspired by the words ‘I think, therefore I am’ by Descartes (1596-1650). 

Much of the exhibition was first created at a time when consumerism was peripheral to societal norms, the all too recognisable and relatable aspects of the world today and it’s hyper-consumerism is brought forth from the past. Re-addressing the narratives that ran through the exhibition in 2014 in Chicago, while bringing works from 1989 into 2024 with surprising ease and pertinence. As context changes and evolves, Kruger’s work takes on new forms but remaining so inherently current. A running commentary connecting decades. 

Could this exhibition in fact be called an ‘Anti-retrospective’?

The digitalisation of Kruger’s work also allows for changes in the fonts throughout the pieces. The fonts stretch, shrink and warp as they move, appearing and disappearing across the screens. At times too large or moving too fast to read. These fonts are jarring and provoke a feeling of discomfort. The sheer volume of words and images and underlying messages can at times be overwhelming and recreates the sense of apathy experienced when confronted by vast quantities of information. 

The works sit within and have been created to connect to the architecture of the South Gallery of the Serpentine, visually and sonically. Visually as the works take up entire walls and floors. Sonically through the audio chorus/chaos of greetings and sentiments echoing through the gallery rooms. The sporadic nature of the voices, spoken from behind walls, give a sense that the exhibition is in some way interactive. Is she saying hello to you?

The exhibition has been curated to extend beyond the Serpentine’s walls and into London. Through the collaboration with Outernet Arts and their iconic LED screens, Kruger’s art will loom large over the passersby of Tottenham Court Road.

It is hard to say whether this exhibition is optimistic. The issues feel too big for one person to change, too engrained in our day to day lives. However the call to action is undeniable as is the role of art in sparking these political, social and philosophical conversations.

Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You.,(Installation view, 1 February – 17 March 2024, Serpentine South) Photo: George Darrell

Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You.,(Installation view, 1 February – 17 March 2024, Serpentine South) Photo: George Darrell

Thinking of You. I Mean Me. I Mean You.,(Installation view, 1 February – 17 March 2024, Serpentine South) Photo: George Darrell

Untitled (No Comment), 2020, Courtesy the artist and Sprüth Magers, Photo_ The Art Institute of Chicago

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Published
March 22, 2023
Barbara Kruger, Serpentine Gallery
Emma Stones