Barbara Kruger’s bold lettering has adorned buses, warehouses, magazine covers, albums and train stations. Her next medium? MetroCards.
Starting Wednesday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will release 50,000 limited-edition MetroCards with Ms. Kruger’s pointed questions emblazoned on the back. The cards will be available at four stations around the city and will arrive in conjunction with a series of site-specific works Ms. Kruger is creating for the Performa Biennial.
The two sets of cards each contain questions that Ms. Kruger has asked in artwork throughout her career. “Who is healed? Who is housed? Who is silent? Who speaks?” is similar to part of a 1991 work, “Untitled (Questions).” “Whose values?” was printed on a Newsweek cover in 1992, as a response to Dan Quayle’s emphasis on family values during his vice-presidential campaign. “These issues of power and control and physical damage and death and predation are ages old,” Ms. Kruger said in a phone interview from Los Angeles. “I wish some of these issues would become archaic.”
Ms. Kruger splits time between Los Angeles and New York, and she said she was excited by the interactive potential of this project: “I take the subway six times a day when I’m in the city,” she said. “The level of dispersal and distribution of meaning is huge.” Her artwork will adorn the LES Skatepark under the Manhattan Bridge, as well as a billboard at 17th Street and 10th Avenue and a school bus.
The cards will be randomly distributed at vending machines at Queensboro Plaza, Broadway-Lafayette Street, East Broadway and the B/C station at 116th Street. (They won’t be available at the counters.) “I tried to have a range of stations to have the most varied mix of riders,” Ms. Kruger said.
The M.T.A. has released several limited-edition MetroCard batches in recent years, including for the 2015 N.B.A. All-Star Game and for Supreme, a streetwear brand whose logo is noticeably similar to Ms. Kruger’s style. (“I never cared at all. I find it amusing,” Ms. Kruger said of the stylistic resemblance.) Those cards received an intense reaction in train stations, one that might only be compounded by a recent announcement that MetroCards will soon begin to be phased out.
Performa’s seventh biennial will consist of a series of live performances and installations around the city. More information can be found at 17.performa-arts.org.
Correction: October 30, 2017
An earlier version of this article misstated which edition of the Performa Biennial will take place in November. It is the seventh biennial, not the 17th.