Martha Rosler in Semiotics of the Kitchen
July 29, 1943 |
Brooklyn, New York
|Education||Brooklyn College, University of California, San Diego|
|Known for||Video art, Installation art, Performance art, writing|
|Notable work||Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975), House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home (1967-72)|
Martha Rosler (born July 29, 1943) is an American artist. She works in video, photo-text, installation, and performance, as well as writing about art and culture. Rosler’s work is centered on the everyday life and the public sphere, often with an eye to women's experience. Recurrent concerns are the media and war, as well as architecture and the built environment, from housing and homelessness to systems of transport.
Early life and education
Born in Brooklyn, Rosler spent formative years in California, from 1968 to 1980, first in north San Diego county and then in San Francisco. She has also lived and taught in Canada. She graduated from Brooklyn College (1965) and the University of California, San Diego (1974).
Her work and writing have been widely influential. Her medium of choice is primarily contains photo-collage and photo-text. Allowing Rosler to have lectured extensively nationally and internationally about photography and media, as well as photo and video history and critical studies, at Rutgers University, where she was a professor for thirty years, and at the Städelschule in Frankfurt, Germany.
She serves in an advisory capacity to the departments of education at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Museum of Modern Art and the Center for Urban Pedagogy (all New York City). She is an Advisory Board board member of the Center for Urban Pedagogy and a Board Member of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School, New York. She is a former board member of the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University, New York, as well as a former member of the boards of directors of the Association for Independent Video and Film and the Media Alliance. She is a regular lecturer at the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York. Martha's most known type of art is her use of variety of mediums. Her most known piece of his is is a photo-collage and photo-text. She uses different objects to combine then together to get the end result of these pieces of work.
Martha is also known for her writing. She has published 15 books on art photography, and has several other interests in airplanes, roads, and the homeless community.
Semiotics of the Kitchen
One of the most influentials of Rosler's works is Semiotics of the Kitchen (1974/75), a pioneering work of feminist video art that shows Rosler in the role of TV host, reciting the alphabet and brandishing a different tool for each letter. In the video, Rosler becomes increasingly violent, revealing a typically overlooked side of domestic life and the role of women in the 1970s.
Other Video Work
Further video work includes Vital Statistics of a Citizen, Simply Obtained (1977), Losing: A Conversation with the Parents (1977), and, with Paper Tiger Television, Martha Rosler Reads Vogue (1982) and Born to Be Sold: Martha Rosler Reads the Strange Case of Baby S/M (1988). Her work focuses on the public sphere, exploring issues from everyday life and the media to architecture and the built environment, especially as they affect women. Throughout these works Rosler manipulates performance based narratives and symbolized images of mass media to disrupt expectations of the viewer. Rosier says, "Video itself 'isn't innocent' : Yes video lets me construct, using a variety of fictional narrative forms, 'decoys' engaged in a dialectic with commercial TV." 
These concepts are emphasized in works like Semiotics of the Kitchen in which a static camera is focused on a woman in a kitchen who interacts with kitchen utensils, naming and demonstrating their uses in off putting gestures, speaking on the expectations of women in certain spaces.
Her photo/text work The Bowery in two inadequate descriptive systems (1974/75) is considered a seminal work in conceptual and postmodern photographic practice. The series of 45 silver gelatin prints alternates photos of storefronts in the Bowery neighborhood of New York City with text describing drunken behavior. The photos are displayed in a grid to accentuate the antiseptic nature of the installation and the inherent limitation of documentary photography to describe human experiences and social problems.
One of Rosler's other best-known works House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home (1967–72), a series of photo-collages that juxtaposes idyllic catalogue scenes with photos from the Vietnam War. These ironic images continue the legacy of political photo-montage in the style of Hannah Hoch and John Heartfield or pop art like Richard Hamilton's Just what is it that makes today's homes so different, so appealing?. Both the war images and the domestic interior's were collected from issues of Life Magazine, but unlike in their original context, Rosler sought to conflate the two worlds to imply connections between the industries of war and the industries of the home.
Rosler revisited this series in 2004 and 2008 by creating new images based on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sensing that her original series had become quaint and aestheticized, her new series was designed to address contemporary issues that strangely parralled the Vietnam War. Rosler described a "rah rah" attitude of American media and politics that reminded her of the political manipulations of the past.
Also widely noted are her series of photomontages, Body Beautiful, or Beauty Knows No Pain (c. 1965–72), addressing the photographic representation of women and domesticity,
Many of these works are concerned with the geopolitics of entitlements and dispossession. Her writing and photographic series on roads, the system of air transport, and urban undergrounds (subways or metros) join her other works addressing urban planning and architecture, from housing to homelessness and the built environment.
Rosler has had numerous solo exhibitions. A retrospective of her work, “Positions in the Life World” (1998–2000) was shown in five European cities (Birmingham, England; Vienna; Lyon/Villeurbanne; Barcelona; and Rotterdam) and, concurrently, at the International Center of Photography and the New Museum of Contemporary Art (both in New York). She has recently been the subject of an extensive retrospective exhibition at the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAM), in Turin. In 2006 her work was the subject of solo exhibitions at the University of Rennes and in 2007 at the Worcester Museum of Art. Her work has been seen in the Venice Biennale of 2003; the Liverpool Biennial, the Taipei Biennial (both 2004), and the Singapore Biennale (2011); as well as many major international survey shows, including the "Documenta" exhibitions in Kassel, Germany, of 1982 and 2007, the SkulpturProjekte Münster 2007, and several Whitney Biennials.
In 1989, in lieu of a solo exhibition at the Dia Art Foundation in New York City, Rosler organized the project "If You Lived Here...", in which over 50 artists, film- and video producers, photographers, architects, planners, homeless people, squatters, activist groups, and schoolchildren addressed contested living situations, architecture, planning, and utopian visions. In 2009, an archive exhibition based on this project, "If You Lived Here Still," opened at e-flux's gallery in New York and then traveled (2010) to Casco Office for Art Design and Theory, in Utrecht, Netherlands, and to La Virreina Centre de la Imatge in Barcelona. Following the problematic addressed by these exhibitions, Rosler together with the urbanist Miguel Robles-Durán worked on the urban installation project in Hamburg, Germany, called We Promise!(2015), which confronts the conflicting promises of urban regeneration projects in Europe. In 2016, a projected year-long project at the New Foundation Seattle and in the Seattle, under the rubric "Housing Is a Human Right," was to reprise all three exhibitions of the Dia exhibition of 1989, "If You Lived Here..."—but focusing especially on contemporary Seattle. However, the New Foundation, which had also made her the first recipient of its award to a distinguished female artist working in the field of social justice, abruptly ceased public operations after the completion of the first two shows. Subsequently, also in 2016, Rosler organized an exhibition in New York that included much of the Dia and Seattle material but focused on New York City. Working with her Seattle curator Yoko Ott, and Miguel Robles-Durán, with the assistance of Dan Wiley and Marty Kirchner and many others, Rosler put on the exhibition If you can't afford to live here, mo-o-ove! at Mitchell-Innes and Nash, renamed the Temporary Office of Urban Disturbances. Four public forums on the issues of art and gentrification and the privatization of housing were also held.
At the Utopia Station show at the Venice Biennale of 2003, she worked with about 30 of her students from Stockholm and Copenhagen, as well as a small, far-flung internet group, 'the Fleas', to produce banners and a mini-pavilion exploring utopian schemes and communities and their political and social ramifications. She has done two tours of historical sites, one in Hamburg (1993) and one in Liverpool (2004), in conjunction with curated art projects. At the Frieze Art Fair (London) of 2005, she conducted a tour of this temporary site from its siting and construction to all aspects of its labor, including customer service, food service and toilets, publicity, maintenance, and security.
Her solo show, “Meta-Monumental Garage Sale" was held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in November 2012, revisiting a series of exhibitions she had held in 1973 and 1977 that centered on the American garage sale. The exhibit in the MoMa’s atrium was inspired by Rosler’s fascination with garage sales, as she first experienced this phenomenon when she moved from New York to Southern California. Her intrigue in these strange community events, garage sales, caused her to start collecting her own items and doing her own garage sale events. The 2008 “Meta-Monumental Garage Sale” presented over 14,000 items, from Rosler’s own collection, and even included donated items from museum employees and the public. Rosler even went as far as to price all the items herself – which included some steep prices in order to not only raise enough money for charity, but also to ensure that all the articles wouldn’t be quickly purchased and ruin the experience for the rest of the public, who were willing to pay $25 to enter her Meta-Monumental Garage Sale.
At the request of museum curators, she restaged such sales in several European art locales and in New York City starting in 1999, culminating in Fair Trade Garage Sale at the Museum of Cultural History in Basel, in conjunction with the 2010 Basel Art Fair, and then at MoMA in 2012.
E-flux sponsored "The Martha Rosler Library," in which, starting in November 2005, over 7,500 volumes from her private collection were made available as a public resource in venues in and around art institutions, schools, and libraries. The collection started at e-flux's New York gallery and then traveled to the Frankfurter Kunstverein in Germany; to Antwerp's MuHKA (Museum of Contemporary Art) in conjunction with NICC, an artist-run space; to United Nations Plaza School in Berlin; to the Institut National de L'Histoire de L'Art in Paris; to Stills in Edinburgh; to John Moore's Art School in Liverpool; and to the Gallery at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, before being retired. At the "Martha Rosler Library," visitors could sit and read or make free photocopies. Other projects, such as reading groups and public readings, were organized locally in conjunction with the project.
Martha Rosler's essays have been published widely in catalogues, magazines, such as Artforum, Afterimage, Quaderns, and Grey Room, and edited collections, among them, Women Artists at the Millennium (October Books/MIT, 2006). She has produced numerous other "word works" and photo/text publications; now exploring cookery in a mock dialogue between Julia Child and Craig Claiborne, now analyzing imagery of women in Russia or exploring responses to repression, crisis, and war. Her 1981 essay, "In, Around, and Afterthoughts (on documentary photography)," has been widely cited, republished, and translated and is credited with a great role in dismantling the myths of photographic disinterestedness and in generating a discussion about the importance of institutional and discursive framing in determining photographic meaning.
Rosler has published sixteen books of photography, art, and writing. Among them are Decoys and Disruptions: Selected Essays 1975-2001 (MIT Press, 2004), the photo books Passionate Signals (Cantz, 2005), In the Place of the Public: Airport Series (Cantz, 1997), and Rights of Passage (NYFA, 1995). If You Lived Here (Free Press, 1991) discusses and supplements her Dia project on housing, homelessness, and urban life. Several books, in English and other languages, were published in 2006, including a 25-year edition of 3 Works (Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design). The collection Imágenes Públicas, Spanish translations of some essays and video scripts, was published in 2007. Her book Culture Class, on gentrification, artists, art institutions, and the Culture Class theory, was published by e-flux and Sternberg Press in 2013.
- A Budding Gourmet 1974, 17:45 min, b&w, sound;
- Semiotics of the Kitchen 1975, 6:09 min, b&w, sound;
- Losing: A Conversation with the Parents 1977, 18:39 min, color,sound;
- The East Is Red, The West Is Bending 1977, 19:57 min, color, sound;
- From the PTA, the High School and the City of Del Mar 1977, 6:58 minutes;
- Vital Statistics of a Citizen, Simply Obtained 1977, 39:20 min, color, sound;
- Travelling Garage Sale 1977, 30 min, b&w;
- Domination and the Everyday 1978, 32:07 min, color, sound;
- Secrets From the Street: No Disclosure 1980, 12:20 min, color, sound;
- Optimism/Pessimism: Constructing a Life 1981, 44 minutes;
- Watchwords of the Eighties 1981-82, 62 minutes;
- Martha Rosler Reads Vogue 1982, 25:45 min, color, sound;
- A Simple Case for Torture, or How to Sleep at Night 1983, 62 minutes;
- Fascination with the (Game of the) Exploding (Historical) Hollow Leg 1983, 58:16 min, color, sound;
- If it's too bad to be true, it could be DISINFORMATION 1985, 16:26 min, color, sound;
- Global Taste: A Meal in Three Courses 1985, 30 minutes, 3-channel installation;
- Born to be Sold: Martha Rosler Reads the Strange Case of Baby SM (with Paper Tiger Television) 1988, 35 min, color, sound;
- In the Place of the Public: Airport Series 1990, 4 hrs, color, sound;
- Greenpoint: The Garden Spot of the World 1993, 19:24 minutes;
- How Do We Know What Home Looks Like? 1993, 31 min, color, sound;
- Seattle: Hidden Histories 1991-95, 13 min, color, sound;
- Chile on the Road to NAFTA 1997, 10 min, color, sound;
- Prototype (God Bless America) 2006, 1 minute;
- Semiotics of the Kitchen: An Audition 2011, 10:26 min, color, sound.
Rosler was awarded the Spectrum International Prize in Photography for 2005. The prize was accompanied by a photo and video retrospective, “If Not Now, When?” at the Sprengel Museum in Hanover and NGBK in Berlin. The book Passionate Signals accompanied this exhibition. In 2006 she received the Oskar Kokoschka Prize, Austria's highest fine arts award. She received an Anonymous Was A Woman Award for 2007 and was the USA Artists Nimoy Fellow in 2009. She was awarded a Civitella Ranieri Residency for 2009. In 2010 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guggenheim Museum. Rosler was awarded a DAAD Berlin fellowship for 2011. In 2012 she was awarded a Doctorate in Fine Arts Honoris Causa by the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, and the Distinguished Feminist Award by the College Art Association. In 2014, Rosler was awarded a Doctorate in Fine Arts Honoris Causa by the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, and in 2016, the degree of Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts by Rhode Island School of Design, Providence. In 2016 Rosler also was awarded the Inaugural award from the New Foundation Seattle for a woman artist working toward social justice.
- "Martha Rosler: 3 Works" (Press of the Nova Scotia college of Art and Design), 3 Works (1981; republished Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 2006) ISBN 0-919616-46-1, including the following essay:
- "In, around, and afterthoughts (on documentary photography)" (1981)
- If You Lived Here: The City in Art, Theory, and Social Activism (Free Press, 1991)
- Rights of Passage (NYFA, 1995)
- In the Place of the Public: Airport Series (Cantz, 1997)
- Martha Rosler: Positions in the Life World (MIT Press, 1999)
- Decoys and Disruptions: Selected Essays 1975-2001 (MIT Press, 2004)
- Passionate Signals (Cantz, 2005)
- Imágenes Públicas (Editorial Gustavo Gili, 2007)
- Culture Class (e-flux and Sternberg Press, 2013)
- "Martha Rosler Biography". The European Graduate School. Retrieved 9 April 2013.
- Zippay, Lori (1991). Artists' Videos An International Guide. New York: Electronic Art Intermix. p. 167.
- "Whitney Museum of American Art". Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- "The War is Always Home: Martha Rosler". October. 1991. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- Greg Cook (2007). "Of War and Remembrance". Boston.com. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- We Promise!
- Nochlin, Linda. “Less Than More,” Artforum, Vol. 62, No.1 (September 2003), p. 178 ff.
- Kennedy, Randy. "No Picassos, but Plenty of Off-the-Wall Bargains". New York Times. Retrieved 18 February 2015.
- Filipovic, Elena. “If You Read Here... Martha Rosler’s Library,” Afterall no. 15 (Summer 2007).
- Farzin, Media (Sep 9, 2009). "Still Here: An Interview With Martha Rosler and Anton Vidokle". Art in America. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
- Cheng, Scarlet (Feb 20, 2010). "Art is the message on these billboards". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 3 October 2011.
- Spectrum — International Prize for Photography, Foundation of Lower Saxony website.
- Richard Meyer, “Feminism Uncovered: On the Wack! Catalogue,” Artforum, Summer 2007. pp. 211–212, 548.
- Heather Diack, “Too Close to Home: Rethinking Representation in Martha Rosler’s Photomontages of War,” Prefix Photo (Toronto), Vol. 7, no. 2 (Nov. 2006). pp. 56–69.
- Jean-Marc Huitorel, “Martha Rosler, Sur/Sous le Pavé.” ArtPress, July/August 2006.
- Beatrice von Bismarck, “Freedom I Have None: Martha Rosler in der Galerie Christian Nagel, Berlin.” Texte zur Kunst, #62, June 2006.
- Raimar Stange, “Martha Rosler: Von der notwendigke it (zitierne) der Kunst/ The Need and Necessity for Quotes and Quoting in Art,” Spike, Winter 2005
- Holland Cotter, ‘If It's Too Bad to Be True, It Could Be Disinformation,” New York Times, Art in Review section, Nov. 11 2005
- Frances Richard, “Martha Rosler,” Artforum, Feb 2005, p. 173
- Jens Hoffmann, “The Familiar Is Not Necessarily the Known,” NU: The Nordic Art Review (Stockholm), Vol. III, No. 2, 2001, pp. 58–63
- Martina Pachmanová, “Umeni bourat myty ve svete kolem nás i v nás.” Aspekt (Bratislava), 12/2000-1/2001, pp. 130–136
- Martina Pachmanova, "Interview with Martha Rosler: Subverting the Myths of Everyday Life," n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal (London), issue 19 online, May 2006 pp. 98–109
- Mary Paterson "Martha Rosler: art activist: Mary Paterson interviews Martha Rosler," n.paradoxa: international feminist art journal (London), vol. 23 print, pp. 87–91
Moffet, Charles. "Martha Rosler - Feminist Art - The Art History Archive." Martha Rosler - Feminist Art - The Art History Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Mar. 2017.