Thursday, 28 June 2007

WE TAKE THE WORDS OUT OF YOUR MOUTH, 1986


By Fatmir Terziu
This image is clearly emphasising the unrecognisable in masculine face, the tendency to crush opposition and engage in exploitation regardless of sequences. However it is a symbol of power from symbols of innocence and purity.

Untitled (We take the words out of your mouth, 1986), hanging in Tate Modern Gallery, is typical and topical. In the centre of the image is a very close-up of a man’s face and of a child’s face from the side. The man’s face starts from below the eyebrows and ends in his collar. The man has a big nose and is goggle-eyed. The child’s left hand is inside the man’s open mouth up to the wrist. In the right side corner of the image is the phrase “We take the words out of your…” The rest of the words of the phrase ‘your mouth’ is found on the opposite side. The word ‘We’ is in a bigger size than the rest of the words in the phrase. The words ‘…your mouth’ are in the bottom left hand-side corner of the image. The parallel between the image and the later phrase is obvious. The images are black and white with shadows and chiaroscuro. This effect of light and shade is not in proportion. The darkest shade is in the man’s mouth and around his neck. The eye sockets and the space between his lower lip and his chin are also in shadow. His neck is covered and his clothes around his neck are hidden, like the covert authoritarian power that he symbolises. Actually we see the two faces, but we also read them.
T
his picture is in essence a quick take that disturbs and provokes thought, like a politically conscious advertisement. It’s about the power and the use and abuse of language. Attention is directed to the control of the two faces. This attention is here not understood as a means of
creating an illusion of space and depth, but as a paradigm of a centralising composition with the orthogonal leading the eye to the central point. In the text the author, Barbara Kruger, has described her focus as the “panorama of political relations mediated by the images”, noting that the control once achieved through language has yielded to the picture. This streaming of image and text converges, separates, and disperses at various intervals and devised topographic understandings. Words and the image together have become sharpened weapons. The man’s big nose symbolises selfishness, egotism, greed, meanness, miserliness, self-indulgence, self-interest and thoughtlessness, while his face symbolises a shadowy part of the world. The beefiness of his neck surrounded by shadow symbolises a part of the world, which only cares about itself. His goggle-eyes mirror the reality hidden inside him.
On the other hand the child’s face, which is only half seen, symbolises another part of the world. His face has no shadow on it, which symbolises that that part of the world is sincere, earnest, honest and open. His face also symbolises innocence and purity. A stretched child’s arm which is inside the man’s open mouth brings to attention that the power is meaningful in this contrast between the man’s big head and the child’s smaller one.
Inside this we also understand that the power is a source from the new generation, is a power from a new era. As Focault determined, power is everywhere not because it embraces everything but because it comes from everywhere. Power is embedded in the signs and icons of culture.
The phrase “We take the words out of your mouth” and the use of minimal colours makes statement that provoke questions about power and its effect on the child and what he symbolises. The word ‘We’, which leads the rest of the words symbolised attention directed to the control and positioning of the man’s face. It’s position near the man’s big nose and near child’s hand inside the man’s open mouth symbolises that the power is not a source from a single person, but from a whole generation. The other words “…take the words out of …” are joined, symbolising a large number of the shadowy world, but which is powerless against the opposition, the ‘We’. The next words ‘…your mouth’ labels the image as a political parable. Its mission is to enlighten and to stimulate the mind and awaken the large thoughts. This image is a counter-proposal with respect to a civilisation that proposes itself as powerful, conquering and founded on individual initiative in name of other generations.
Language is a system of signs, and by using signs we can communicate ideas. According to that this image is suggestive of the distance between the simulacrum and reality. It is definitely not alive, but because it resembles human faces, we imagine of an actual human face. In the sign “We take the words out of your mouth” works these theories through real world scenarios discovering the source of power into that seeing in fact is not natural, but is determined in part by what we know already.
The power of icons is considerable, and in this image is tapped into this: the power comes not in hot expulsion of verbiage, but in the elegantly mute thrall of sign language. This statement can be supported by the long fascination of humanity with image and words, the potential for images to arouse emotions and spark imaginations, and the equitability of words with intelligence and prominence in our culture.
Furthermore this image is clearly emphasising the unrecognisable in masculine face, the tendency to crush opposition and engage in exploitation regardless of sequences. However it is a symbol of power from symbols of innocence and purity. It can be seen in a number of different ways using different concepts. It is topical, because this image can be reproduced today as a part of actual political situation and as a real fact of this kind of “power” in many parts of the world. In many parts of the world where brutality similar to that of the “masculine” face the virtues of freedom and democracy are preached at the point of the gun.
Kruger simply created this image with not much expense. We need to popularise this product, by making it available. Issues of power and greed – they can reach the reality.

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