Beyond the Canvas
Martha Rosler's iconic photomontages
Updated: Feb 14, 2022
" I want to open a space in people’s minds where they see that they can be active, intellectually and personally, rather than passive recipients of received ideas and prevailing worldviews." - Martha Rosler
Martha Rosler (b. 1943) is perhaps best known for her seminal 1975 video performance Semiotics of the Kitchen, in which she flicks the finger at the patriarchal system by playing the role of a raging apron-clad housewife who menacingly wields kitchen implements while going through the alphabet. Even after all this time, it makes for rather unsettling viewing.
In the series of photomontages House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home (1967-1972), Rosler articulated her outrage over the Vietnam war by juxtaposing magazine photographs of ideal homes to shocking imagery from the conflict. It's the glossy comforts of the American Dream versus the devastation of war, a distressing contrast between the safety of the domestic sphere and the reality of the outside world. These images were originally made into flyers that she distributed at anti-war demonstrations and also published on underground journals. She returned to the same medium and subject matter in 2004 at the time of the Iraq war.
Rosler's protest brought the war inside the domestic walls in the same way it was done to her when she had to sit through dinner watching footage from Vietnam. The result is a disorientating and quasi voyeuristic experience where the viewer is having to negotiate the contrast between the plush interiors and the violence of the war imagery.
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Cleaning the drapes
Make up / Hands Up
First Lady (Pat Nixon)
All images © Martha Rosler