Gillian Wearing is a contemporary British artist whose conceptually driven photographs and videos investigate power dynamics and voyeurism in everyday life. Focused more on capturing the self-awareness of her subjects than on issues of aesthetics, Wearing employs prosthetic masks, voice dubbing, altered photographs, in her portraits of herself, individuals, and groups. This is especially notable in her series of work Signs that Say What You Want Them To Say and Not Signs that Say What Someone Else Wants You To Say (1992-1993), in which the artist confronted strangers and asked them write what they were thinking, then photographed them holding the sign. “It’s always important as an artist to find a unique language, and that’s why the Signs excited me,” she said of her series. “They felt new. But I didn’t realize they were going to be so influential, on everything from advertising to people doing signs for their Facebook page.” Born in 1963 in Birmingham, United Kingdom, she moved to London in 1983, studying first at the Chelsea School of Art then Goldsmiths College where she became a part of the Young British Artists generation alongside Damien Hirst. In 1997, the artist was the winner of the prestigious Turner Prize for her 1996 piece “60 Minutes Silence“. She currently lives and works in London, UK. Today, Wearing’s works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C., among others. http://www.artnet.com/artists/gillian-wearing/
Ed Ruscha works in a very open-ended way exploiting tension between images and text that often seem rather arbitrary in their juxtaposition, making the viewer make their own connections and interpretations.
His approach is mainly aesthetic – interested in abstract potential of words against abstract design underlying his photographs and paintings. Some commentators on the You Tube videos below have seen this as rather vacuous. What concerns me is the way a focus on ‘cool’ leads to a sort of ‘apathy of the sublime’.
Martha Rosler is an American artist. She works in photography and photo text, video, installation, sculpture, and performance, as well as writing about art and culture. Rosler’s work is centered on everyday life and the public sphere, often with an eye to women’s experience. Wikipedia
Rosler’s work is quite diverse, but can be seen as underwriiten by four main themes around the question ‘What is subjectivity in the context of late capitalism?’
- Biopolitical: the way that power orchestrates the body, particularly for women. Draws on de Beauvoir, Lefevre and later Foucault.
- Everyday/ordinary/banale and commodification
- Vernacular projects referencing Pop Art, snapshot photography and citizen journalism
- Urbanism an political economy of place
Her work is directly linked to her activism: feminist, anti-power, anti-militarist and in support of human subjectivity. She draws on the theory and practice of ‘estrangement’ of Brecht and Godard where the work invites the viewer to recognise/misrecognise and then deny the content of what they are seeing – leading to critical thinking – leading to taking a position that things should be different.
She has used image and text in different ways. Some of her work is very effective in exploiting gaps and contradictions between the two ‘descriptive systems’.
This work is a large gallery frieze of a series of photographs of buildings and store fronts with bottles in various positions as traces of events, as a dyptych with ‘poems to alcohol’ – lists of words and phrases referring to drunkenness. They were produced as a counter to what Rosler sees as the voyeuristic and parasitic photography of homeless people and people with alcohol issues with quotations from them that are often taken by students, journalists or NGOs.
I find the unusual juxtaposition of two ‘ descriptive systems’ of image and text that are ‘inadequate’ in themselves to communicate collisions of power very poignant.
Semiotics of the Kitchen
House beautiful: bringing the war home
Other works are much more direct and – I think to a modern audience used to very polished and well-constructed video on what are nowadays common themes – rather cliche. Though the same issues remain.
- Look up
- secrets from the Street
- Middle East photomontages
- Passionate Signals
- rites of passage