In her work in video, photo-text, performance, critical writing and installation, Martha Rosler constructs incisive social and political analyses of the myths and realities of contemporary culture. Articulated with deadpan wit, Rosler's video works investigate how socioeconomic realities and political ideologies dominate ordinary life. Presenting astute critical analyses in accessible forms, Rosler's inquiries range from questions of public space to issues of war, women's experiences, and media information.
Questioning the relation of the corporation, the state and the family, media information and the individual, and public and private, she exposes the internalized oppression that underlies such cultural phenomena as the objectification of women (Vital Statistics of a Citizen, Simply Obtained, 1977); anorexia and starvation (Losing: A Conversation With The Parents, 1977); and surrogate motherhood (Born to be Sold, 1988).
Densely layered, her tapes merge performance-based narrative dramatizations, documentary elements, mass-media images and factual texts, and often employ litanies of statistics, systems of classification, and enumeration to disrupt the signs of the everyday. For example, of the classic Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975), Rosler writes that an "anti-Julia Child replaces the domesticated 'meaning' of kitchen tools with a lexicon of rage and frustration."
Writing about her work, Rosler has stated: "I want to make art about the commonplace, art that illumines social life. I want to enlist video to question the mythical explanations of everyday life that take shape as an optimistic rationalism and to explore the relationships between individual consciousness, family life, and the culture of monopoly capitalism. Video itself isn't 'innocent': it is a cultural commodity often celebrating the self and its inventiveness. Yet video lets me construct, using a variety of fictional narrative forms, 'decoys' engaged in a dialectic with commercial TV."
Martha Rosler was born in Brooklyn, New York, where she lives and works. She received a B.A. from Brooklyn College and an M.F.A. from the University of California, San Diego. She has taught at the Städelschule in Frankfurt and at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Her works in several media are in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and Guggenheim Museum in New York; Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Long Beach Museum of Art in California; Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Tate and V&A in London; Museu d'Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona; Museo Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; and Australian National Gallery, Canberra; and hundreds of colleges, universities, and independent centers around the world. Her work has been exhibited at the 50th Venice Biennale; 2004 Taipei Biennial; documentas 7 and 12, Kassel; several Whitney Biennials, New York; SkulpturProjekte Münster 07; and many other group exhibitions. The Martha Rosler Library toured from 2005 to 2009. A career retrospective, Positions in the Life World, was exhibited at 5 European cities and at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, and Institute of Contemporary Photography, New York, from 1998 to 2000.
Rosler was awarded the Spectrum International Prize in Photography for 2005 and the Oskar Kokoschka Prize in 2006. She received an Anonymous Was A Woman Award in 2007 and in 2008 was the United States Artists Nimoy Fellow. In 2009 she held a residency at Civitella Ranieri in Umbertide, Italy. She received a Guggenheim Museum Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010. In 2011 she was a DAAD Artist in Residence in Berlin. In 2012, Rosler will present Meta-Monumental Garage Sale, her first solo exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York.