Untitled “Your Body is a Battleground”, like many of Kruger’s work, can relate to an array of political and social debates. It is a great example of how Kruger was not only actively involved in on going heated political issues, but also sent strong messages about them.
According to Kruger’s book Love for Sale, figure 1. was made in response to the 1989 Women’s March in Washington in support of women’s rights, especially concerning abortion (the right to choose) and birth control rights. These demonstrations marked a new wave of anti-abortion laws. The march, as well as Kruger’s Untitled work in figure 1. are statements to the political leadership of America – President Bush, the Congress of the United States and the Supreme Court.
The work gains new meanings in this historical context – a piece simultaneously art and protest. This montage depicts a woman’s face split symmetrically into two along a vertical axis. The play of color inversion emphasizes the idea of the “positive versus negative, white versus black, good versus bad”1. This is to criticize how the issue has highly simplified inner struggle – good against evil. Another interpretation is that Kruger divided the abortion debate into two distinctly different viewpoints – those who support women’s right to choose and those who are against it. The clean line separating the inversing sides emphasizes the twofold nature of the issue.
Figure 2. Your Body is a Battleground, Barbara Kruger, 1989
In another version of the poster is even more overtly political, shown in figure 2. the text added clearly indicates the cause and stance of the artist. Even before producing her signature montages, Kruger had leftist inclinations when she was freelancing in book cover design for several publications. The books she took on as projects dealt with politics, such as Russia, and China; and Capitalism in Argentine Culture2.Figure 3. Your Body is a Battleground (billboard project for Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH), Barbara Kruger, 1990
Kruger is not only an artist, but also an activist. Therefore, Figure 1 is not only a poster to mobilize the audience but also a summary of what protestors felt towards the issue. Through art, Kruger challenges the unbalanced power relation between women in the country and the conservative and right-wing agenda. As Kate Linker states, “To Kruger, power is not localized in specific institutions but is dispersed through a multiplicity of sites. . . power cannot be centralized. . .it is anonymous.”3 The artist also designed other posters and a billboard for pro-life organizations, as we can see in Figure 3. Kruger’s various efforts in support of the issue is an effective demonstration of her stance and efforts in this battle. Together with her action, the message is stronger than ever. Like feminist art critic Lucy Lippard says, “Artists alone can’t change the world. Neither can anyone else, alone. But we can choose to be part of the world that is changing.”