“It’s all about me”?

w-magazine-kim-kardashian-barbara-kruger

The November 2010 issue of W Magazine (which made Time Magazine’s “Top 10 Magazine Covers” of 2010 list) features the work of feminist visual design artist Barbara Kruger.

Here, Kruger appropriates the body of nude celebrity Kim Kardashian and overlays three concise statements — white text (in Futura italic bold, which is Kruger’s “signature” font) encased in red text boxes. Through this act of appropriation, Kruger practices a form of bricolage. Kardashian’s body is — and, in general, the bodies of women are — traditionally considered commodities. The physical female form is a source of entertainment and pleasure in a patriarchal society; female bodies are expected to conform to and replicate male expectations and standards of attractiveness, such as physique, weight, lack of body hair, etc. Kruger appropriates the body of a woman who meets (and perhaps exceeds) the male-established standards of attractiveness, and then re-purposes the typical function of the female body by boldly calling out (or “hailing,” according to Althusser) the viewer — interpolating the viewer by directly addressing them as “you.” Who “you” is, though, is debatable. “You” can (and I think most likely) addresses the male viewer and the male gaze; however, “you” can also address a viewer of Kardashian’s reality television show “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” In either case, the image admits that females in general and Kardashian specifically perform in a manner that is in response to male expectations of females. Kruger’s text, though, takes this admission much further.

This overlaid text provides the female figure with a voice that expresses three thoughts. These thoughts begin with the confident assertion “[i]t’s all about me.” The following thought creates contradiction: “I mean you.” And the third thought changes direction yet again, echoing the first: “I mean me.” As the text diminishes in size, so does the confidence in the Kruger-provided-voice of the female figure. The lack of punctuation (aside from the apostrophe in “it’s” which is only present for spelling’s sake) conveys confusion, as if the thoughts run into one another — as if they are connected in cyclic uncertainty. This uncertainty is reflective of female awareness (or lack thereof) in regard to their behaviors or self-representations. (Do I do this because I want to, or because I think that it’s what someone else finds attractive or desirable in a woman?)

Kruger does a phenomenal job of appropriating an image, interpolating the viewer, and practicing bricolage as a means of making a thought-provoking response to a patriarchal society.

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