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Martha Rosler’s art (like in her various writings) does one thing, and that for over the past forty years: interference and taking up a position. Just to name a few intense works, beginning with one of her earliest, the collage series Bringing the War Back Home (1967 to 1972): 15 photographic montages in which Rosler combines glossy-aesthetic Architectural Digest interiors with war photography from Life magazine taken during the Vietnam War, pointing out the extreme discrepancy between happy consumerist society and its ugly political B-side; she follows up on this idea in her large-scale installation The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems (1974-75) in which she juxtaposes photographs of the run-down formerly grand avenue with text plates of the various mechanisms of representation and, in particular, in the creation of public opinion and social reality with which she interrogates the difficult role of documentary photography. One also finds this in her numerous videos and performances: for instance, in Semiotics for the Kitchen (1975), the kitchen utensils of a housewife become the preferred weapons of her aggressive and fighting spirit, or in the live performance for a open cable TV station Martha Rosler Reads Vogue (1982) in which she verbally deconstructs page-for-page an issue of Vogue, pointing out exploitation mechanisms of the clothing industry.

Regardless of what concerns these works that long ago have become part of the art historical canon of the second half of the 20th century, and Rosler’s most recent work – be it war, homelessness, gender-related injustice, gentrification, groceries, their preparation or distribution – what connects them all is her engagement and her unmistakable political motivation. Art is here understood as deeply rooted in the social struggle, far-removed from functioning as purely self-referential. And thus art must return to its production. In other words, it’s about defining art as a responsibility, tracing out the blind spots and ideological gaps and, in the end, employing art as a possible channel of criticism.

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