Pipilotti Rist encounters the work of Barbara Kruger
Once a week I eat at Tate Modern; my friend works in the kitchen there. Before I go I ask her to recommend a work of art. When my grandmother was ill I promised her that I would do that every week. This is my 33rd visit. This time I’m looking at Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (We Will No Longer Be Seen and Not Heard) from 1985. There are nine images in this series, each cropped for dramatic emphasis and overlaid with printed text to make the sentence: “We will no longer be seen and not heard.” Some of the illustrations correspond to sign language for the deaf, while others do not. The use of “we” is meant to include us viewers, whose voices join in spreading the warning that we will resist oppression. The statement seems addressed to a vaguely sinister audience – to the “you” out there who are strong and who take advantage of the “we”. These sentences are stolen from the University of Kentucky’s website.
I rode to Tate Modern by bike. The traffic lights were often red. What beautiful colours. The streets were still wet and the lights were reflected in the puddles. The wind blew against me. I knew I was going to eat the experience of the artist by looking at Kruger’s piece.
I like Tate Modern restaurant on the ground floor for its menu and its high windows. Today, I order goat’s cheese with spinach, oranges and red beets. Before I eat, I pray and I lap up the window as a thank you. I pray to Barbara Kruger. I thank her for existing. I lap up the window for the joy of rain and for the capability to thank. Thank you for this good morning. Thank you for the sprouts. Thank you for. It’s the best place in the world. I tend to think this in every nice spot. I also order an elderflower juice. And a glass of tap water. Thank you for the glasses. Thank you for water.
All the visitors and guests that I see around me I can also hear.
The co-passenger in the lift is singing aloud. I have to say I like that. I like museums with a lot of people. They take time to watch and to be watched; time to concentrate, to be astonished. I repeat: if you’re seen, you can be heard. Talk loudly. Don’t be afraid. Talk to everybody you find interesting. Give as many compliments as possible. May I quote Ben Harper: “Speak kind to a stranger, ‘cos you’ll never know, it might just be an angel come knockin’ at your door.” If somebody talks to you, turn yourself three times and thank her for talking to you. I’m falling through my net.
Buy nothing! Cut pictures you like from the newspapers and magazines (for example, this one you are reading) and glue them into your own book. In the secondhand shop you can buy old books and glue bits from them on to the existing text and pictures. When you have guests, look at the book together and let them sign it with the date.
I hear you even though I don’t see you. I think of you; do your molecules feel it? I show you my nails. The small person’s hat is dancing in the wind. Hush, hush, follow the child!