Jenny Holzer
The Art History Archive - Biography & Art


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Biography:

An American Neo-Conceptualist artist, Jenny Holzer (born 1950) utilized the homogeneous rhetoric of modern information systems in order to address the politics of discourse. In 1989 she became the first female artist chosen to represent the United States at Italy's Venice Biennale.

Jenny Holzer was born July 29, 1950, in Gallipolis, Ohio, into a family of two generations of Ford auto dealers. She completed her undergraduate degree at Ohio University in Athens after attending Duke University and the University of Chicago. While enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design, Holzer experimented with an abstract painting style influenced by the color field painters Mark Rothko and Morris Louis. In 1976 she moved to Manhattan, participating in the Whitney Museum's independent study program.

Language as Art

Holzer's conception of language as art, in which semantics developed into her aesthetic, began to emerge in New York. The Whitney program included an extensive reading list incorporating Western and Eastern literature and philosophy. Holzer felt the writings could be simplified to phrases everyone could understand. She called these summaries her "Truisms" (1978), which she printed anonymously in black italic script on white paper and wheat-pasted to building facades, signs, and telephone booths in lower Manhattan. Arranged in alphabetical order and comprised of short sentences, her "Truisms" inspired pedestrians to scribble messages on the posters and make verbal comments. Holzer would stand and listen to the dialogues invoked by her words.

The participatory effect and the underground format were vital components of Holzer's "Truisms" and of her second series, the "Inflammatory Essays," which laconically articulated Holzer's concerns and anxieties about contemporary society. Holzer printed the "Essays" in alphabetical order, first on small posters and then as a manuscript entitled The Black Book (1979). Until the late 1980s, Holzer refused to produce them in any non-underground formats because of their militant nature. Her declarative language assumed particular force and violence in the multiple viewpoints of the "Essays," ranging from extreme leftist to rightist.

Holzer initiated the "Living Series" in 1981, which she printed on aluminum and bronze plaques, the presentation format used by medical and government buildings. "Living" addressed the necessities of daily life: eating, breathing, sleeping, and human relationships. Her bland, short instructions were accompanied with paintings by the American artist Peter Nadin, whose portraits of men and women attached to metal posts further articulated the emptiness of both life and message in the information age.

Art and Technology

The medium of modern computer systems became an important component in Holzer's work in 1982, when nine of her "Truisms" flashed at forty-second intervals on the giant Spectacolor electronic signboard in Times Square. Sponsored by the Public Arts Fund program, the use of the L.E.D. (light emitting diode) machine allowed Holzer to reach a larger audience. By combining a knowledge of semantics with modern advertising technologies, Holzer established herself as a descendant of the conceptualist and Pop Art movements. She again utilized the electronic signboard with her "Survival Series" (1983-1985), in which she adopted a more personal and urgent stance. The realities of everyday living, the dangers, and the underlying horrors were major themes. Correlating with the immediacy of the messages, Holzer adopted a slightly less authoritarian voice. Her populist appropriation of contemporary "newsspeak" crossed the realm between visual art and poetry and carried a potent expressive force.

Her attempt to make sense out of contemporary life within a technological framework also suggests the limitations of the information age, in which the world of advertising consumes everything, yet an underlying message no longer exists.

After the "Survival Series," Holzer's installations became more monumental in scale and more quasi-religious. Her "Under a Rock" exhibition combined the modern media of the communications industry, the electronic signboard, with marble benches printed in the block letters used in national cemeteries. The language measured angst and violence with the apathetic reportage of the most seasoned news personae: CRACK THE PELVIS SO SHE LIES RIGHT, THIS IS A MISTAKE. WHEN SHE DIES YOU CANNOT REPEAT THE ACT, etc. The vivid juxtaposition between horrifying subject matter and the authoritarian voice, coupled with flashing diodes and cold marble, jars the spectator with its apparent paradox and brutal insistency. By utilizing the pronoun "she," Holzer allied the victimization with the female. The new urgency of the "voice" in Holzer's "Under a Rock" installation, first exhibited in 1986 at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery in New York, revealed a Holzer more overtly building images that suggest male power and control over women.

The birth of her first child in 1989 inspired Holzer's "Laments," perhaps the most personal and angst-ridden series she had done. The "Laments" address motherhood, violation, pain, torture, and death in the voices of "thirteen assorted dead people" (J. Holzer). The personae range in sex and age, yet a common insistency permeates their disembodied words. One passage suggests infanticide: IF THE PROCESS STARTS I WILL KILL THIS BABY A GOOD WAY. The contradictions inherent to the rhetoric, "to kill" but in "a good way," shape the negations and arbitrariness of contemporary linguistics. Holzer accessed the language structure and media of contemporary politics and advertising in order to reveal the tensions and male domination apparent in the contemporary linguistic system.

Virtual Art

The multimedia extravaganzas of Holzer's later installations, such as the 1989 Guggenheim exhibition, are exemplified by a 535-foot running electronic signboard spiraled around the core of Frank Lloyd Wright's architecture, flashing garish lights on the monumental stone benches arranged in a large circle on the floor below. In 1989 also, she became the first female artist chosen to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, the international art world's premiere event. For the Biennale, Holzer designed posters, hats, and t-shirts to be sold in the streets of Venice, while her L.E.D. signboards and marble benches occupied the solemn and austere exhibition space. Her words were translated into multiple languages in order to communicate to an international audience. Despite the fact that she had won the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Biennale, Holzer also started to draw more negative reactions to her work. The size and expense of her exhibits, as well as her growing popularity in the art world, led some to accuse her of becoming elitist.

Holzer withdrew from the art world for a few years and then returned in 1993 with a fresh approach to her work and a new emphasis on the immaterial. In October of 1993 she partook in a virtual reality exhibit at the Guggenheim Museum. The following year she produced her next series, "Lustmord," which opened at the Barbara Gladstone Gallery in New York. The title is taken from a German word that means murder plus sexual pleasure. She was inspired by the violence of the war in Bosnia, formerly a republic of Yugoslavia. In 1996 she participated in the First Biennale of Florence. By accepting multivalent formats for her media-conscious verbal imagery, Holzer created a populist art of expressive and poetic force.

Examples of Jenny Holzer's Art:

  • Abuse of Power Comes as No Surprise - c.1984
  • Castle
  • Church
  • First Impressions - 1989
  • Foot Stool
  • Guggenheim Museum
  • Le Corbusier
  • London
  • Times Square
  • Washington

  • TRUISMS (1979-1983)

  • A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE CAN GO A LONG WAY
  • A LOT OF PROFESSIONALS ARE CRACKPOTS
  • A MAN CAN'T KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE A MOTHER
  • A NAME MEANS A LOT JUST BY ITSELF
  • A POSITIVE ATTITUDE MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD
  • A RELAXED MAN IS NOT NECESSARILY A BETTER MAN
  • A SENSE OF TIMING IS THE MARK OF A GENIUS
  • A SINCERE EFFORT IS ALL YOU CAN ASK
  • A SINGLE EVENT CAN HAVE INFINITELY MANY INTERPRETATIONS
  • A SOLID HOME BASE BUILDS A SENSE OF SELF
  • A STRONG SENSE OF DUTY IMPRISONS YOU
  • ABSOLUTE SUBMISSION CAN BE A FORM OF FREEDOM
  • ABSTRACTION IS A TYPE OF DECADENCE
  • ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE
  • ACTION CAUSES MORE TROUBLE THAN THOUGHT
  • ALIENATION PROCUES ECCENTRICS OR REVOLUTIONARIES
  • ALL THINGS ARE DELICATELY INTERCONNECTED
  • AMBITION IS JUST AS DANGEROUS AS COMPLACENCY
  • AMBIVALENCE CAN RUIN YOUR LIFE
  • AN ELITE IS INEVITABLE
  • ANGER OR HATE CAN BE A USEFUL MOTIVATIVING FORCE
  • ANIMALISM IS PERFECTLY HEALTHY
  • ANY SURPLUS IS IMMORAL
  • ANYTHING IS A LEGITIMATE AREA OF IN VESTIGATION
  • ARTIFICIAL DESIRES ARE DESPOILING THE EARTH
  • AT TIMES INACTIVITY IS PREFERABLE TO MINDLESS FUNCTIONING
  • AT TIMES YOUR UNCONSCIOUS IS TRUER THAN YOUR CONSCIOUS MIND
  • AUTOMATION IS DEADLY
  • AWFUL PUNISHMENT AWAITS REALLY BAD PEOPLE
  • BAD INTENTIONS CAN YIELD GOOD RESULTS
  • BEING ALONE WITH YOURSELF IS INCREASINGLY UNPOPULAR
  • BEING HAPPY IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANYTHING ELSE
  • BEING HONEST IS NOT ALWAYS THE KINDEST WAY
  • BEING JUDGEMENTAL IS A SIGN OF LIFE
  • BEING SURE OF YOURSELF MEANS YOU'RE A FOOL
  • BELIEVING IN REBIRTH IS THE SAME AS ADMITTING DEFEAT
  • BOREDOM MAKES YOU DO CRAZY THINGS
  • CALM IS MORE CONDUCIVE TO CREATIVITY THAN IS ANXIETY
  • CATERGORIZING FEAR IS CALMING
  • CHANGE IS VALUABLE WHEN YHE OPRESSED BECOME THE TYRANTS
  • CHASING THE NEW IS DANGEROUS TO SOCIETY
  • CHILDREN ARE THE CRUELEST OF ALL
  • CHILDREN ARE THE HOPE OF THE FUTURE
  • CLASS ACTION IS A NICE IDEA WITH NO SUBSTANCE
  • CLASS STRUCTIURE IS AS ARTIFICIAL AS PLASTIC
  • CONFUSING YOURSELF IS A WAY TO STAY HONEST
  • CRIME AGAINST PROPERTY IS RELATIVELY UNIMPORTANT
  • DECADENCE CAN BE AN END IN ITSELF
  • DECENY IS A RELATIVE THING
  • DEPENDENCE CAN BE A MEAL TICKET
  • DESCRIPTION IS MORE VALUABLE THAN METAPHOR
  • DEVIANTS ARE SACRIFICED TO INCREASE GROUP SOLIDARITY
  • DISGUST IS THE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO MOSE SITUATIONS
  • DISORGANIZATION IS A KIND OF ANESTHESIA
  • DON'T PLACE TOO MUCH TRUST IN EXPERTS
  • DON'T RUIN PEOPLE'S LIVES FOR THEM
  • DRAMA OFTEN OBSCURES THE REAL ISSUES
  • DREAMING WHILE AWAKE IS A FRIGHTENING CONTRADICTION
  • DYING AND COMING BACK GIVES YOU CONSIDERABLE PERSPECTIVE
  • DYING SHOULD BE EASY AS FALLING OFF A LOG
  • EATING TOO MUCH IS CRIMINAL
  • ELABORATION IS A FORM OF POLLUTION
  • EMOTIONAL RESPONSES ARE AS VAULABLE AS INTELLECTUAL RESPONSES
  • ENJOY YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU CAN'T CHANGE ANYTHING ANYWAY
  • ENSURE THAT YOUR LIFE STAYS IS FLUX
  • EVEN YOUR FAMILY CAN BETRAY YOU
  • EVERY ACHIEVMENT REQUIRES A SACRIFICE
  • EVERYONE'S WORK IS EQUALLY IMPORTANT
  • EVERYTHING THAT'S INTERESTING IS NEW
  • EXCEPTIONAL PEOPLE DESERVE SPECIAL CONSESSIONS
  • EXPIRING FOR LOVE IS BEAUTIFUL BUT STUPID
  • EXPRESSING ANGER IS NECESSARY
  • EXTREME BEHAVIOR HAS ITS BASIS IN PATHOLOGICAL PSYCHOLOGY
  • EXTREME SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS LEADS TO PERVERSION
  • FAITHFULNESS IS A SOCIAL NOT A BIOLOGICAL LAW
  • FAKE OR REAL INDIFFERENCE IS A POWERFUL PERSONAL WEAPON
  • FATHERS OFTEN USE TOO MUCH FORCE
  • FEAR IS TEH GREATEST INCAPACITATOR
  • FREEDOM IS A LUXURY NOT A NECESSITY
  • GIVING FREE REIN TO YOUR EMOTIONS IS AN HONEST WAY TO LIVE
  • GO ALL OUT IN ROMANCE AND LET THE CHIPS FALL WHERE THEY MAY
  • GOING WITH THE FLOW IS SOOTHING BUT RISKY
  • GOOD DEEDS EVENTUALLY ARE REWARDED
  • GOVERNMENT IS A BURDEN ON THE PEOPLE
  • GRASS ROOTS AGITATION IS THE ONLY HOPE
  • GUILT AND SELF-LACERATION ARE INDULGENCES
  • HABITUAL CONTEMPT DOESN'T REFLECT A FINER SENSIBILITY
  • HIDING YOUR MOTIVES IS DESPICABLE
  • HOLDING BACK PROTECTS YOUR VITAL ENERGIES
  • HUMANISM IS OBSELETE
  • HUMOR IS A RELEASE
  • IDEALS ARE REPLACED BY CONVENTIONAL GOALS AT A CERTAIN AGE
  • IF YOU AREN'T POLITICAL YOUR PERSONAL LIFE SHOULD BE EXEMPLARY
  • IF YOU CAN'T LEAVE YOUR MARK GIVE UP
  • IF YOU HAVE MANY DESIRES LIFE WILL BE INTERESTING
  • IF YOU LIVE SIMPLY THERE IS NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT
  • IGNORING ENEMIES IS THE BEST WAY TO FIGHT
  • ILLNESS IS A STATE OF MIND
  • IMPOSING ORDER IS MAN'S VOCATION FOR CHAOS IS HELL
  • IN SOME INSTANCES IT'S BETTER TO DIE THAN TO CONTINUE
  • INHERITANCE MUST BE ABOLISHED
  • IT CAN BE HELPFUL TO KEEP GOING NO MATTER WHAT
  • IT IS HEROICE TO TRY TO STOP TIME
  • IT IS MAN'S FATE TO OUTSMART HIMSELF
  • IT'S A GIFT TO THE WORLD NO TO HAVE BABIES
  • IT'S BETTER TO BE A GOOD PERSON THAN A FAMOUS PERSON
  • IT'S BETTER TO BE LONELY THAN TO BE WITH INFERIOR PEOPLE
  • IT'S BETTER TO BE NAIVE THAN JADED
  • IT'S BETTER TO STUDY THE LIVING TFACT THAN TO ANALYZE HISTORY
  • IT'S CRUCIAL TO HAVE AN ACTIVE FANTASY LIFE
  • IT'S GOOD TO GIVE EXTRA MONEY TO CHARITY
  • IT'S IMPORTANT TO STAY CLEAN ON ALL LEVELS
  • IT'S IMPOSSIBLE TO RECONCILE YOUR HEART AND HEAD
  • IT'S JUST AN ACCIDENT YOUR PARENTS ARE YOUR PARENTS
  • IT'S NOT GOOD TO HOLD TOO MANY ABSOLUTES
  • IT'S NOT GOOD TO OPERATE ON CREDIT
  • IT'S VITAL TO LIVE IN HARMONY WITH NATURE
  • JUST BELIEVING SOMETHING CAN MAKE IT HAPPEN
  • KEEP SOMETHING IN RESERVE FOR EMERGENCIES
  • KILLING IS UNAVOIDABLE BUT IS NOTHING TO BE PROUD OF
  • KNOWING YOURSELF LETS YOU UNDERSTAND OTHERS
  • KNOWLEDGE SHOULD BE ADVANCED AT ALL COSTS
  • LABOR IS A LIFE DESTROYING ACTIVITY
  • LACK OF CHARISMA CAN BE FATAL
  • LEARN THING FROM THE GROUND UP
  • LEARN TO TRUST YOUR OWN EYES
  • LEISURE TIME IS A GIGANTIC SMOKESCREEN
  • LETTING GO IS THE HARDEST THING TO DO
  • LISTEN WHEN YOUR BODY TALKS
  • LOOKING BACK IS THE FIRST SIGN OF AGING AND DECAY
  • LOVING ANIMALS IS A SUBSITUTE ACTIVITY
  • LOW EXPECTATIONS ARE GOOD PROTECTION
  • MANUAL LABOR CAN BE REFRESHING AND WHOLESOME
  • MEN ARE NOT MONOGAMOUS BY NATURE
  • MODERATION KILLS THE SPIRIT
  • MONEY CREATES TASTE
  • MONOMANIA IS A PREREQUISITE OF SUCCESS
  • MORALS ARE FOR LITTLE PEOPLE
  • MOST PEOPLE ARE NOT FIT TO RULE THEMSELVES
  • MOSTLY YOU SHOULD MIND YOUR OWN BUISNESS
  • MOTHERS SHOULDN'T MAKE TOO MANY SACRIFICES
  • MUCH WAS DECIDED BEFORE YOU WHERE BORN
  • MURDER HAS ITS SEXUAL SIDE
  • MYTHS MAKE REALITY MORE INTELLIGIBLE
  • NOISE CAN BE HOSTILE
  • NOTHING UPSETS THE BALANCE OF GOOD AND EVIL
  • OCCASIONALLY PRINCIPLES ARE MORE VALUABLE THAN PEOPLE
  • OFFER VERY LITTLE INFORMATION ABOUT YOURSELF
  • OFTEN YOU SHOULD ACT LIKE UOU ARE SEXLESS
  • OLD FRIENDS ARE BETTER LEFT IN THE PAST
  • OPACITY IS AN IRRESISTIBLE CHALLENGE
  • PAIN CAN BE A VERY POSITIVE THING
  • PEOPLE ARE BORING UNLESS THEY ARE EXTREMISTS
  • PEOPLE ARE NUTS IF THEY THINK THEY ARE IMPORTANT
  • PEOPLE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT THEY DO UNLESS THEY'RE INSANE
  • PEOPLE WHO DON'T WORK WITH THEIR HANDS ARE PARASITES
  • PEOPLE GO CRAZY ARE TOO SENSITIVE
  • PEOPLE WON'T BEHAVE IF THEY HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE
  • PHYSICAL CULTURE IS SECOND-BEST
  • PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE IS ESCAPISM
  • PLAYING IT SAFE CAN CAUSE A LOT OF DAMAGE IN THE LONG RUN
  • POLITICS IS USED FOR PERSONAL GAIN
  • POTENTIAL COUNTS FOR NOTHING UNTIL IT'S REALIZED
  • PRESENTATION IS AS IMPORTANT AS CONTENT
  • PURSUING PLEASURE FOR THE SAKE OF PLEASURE WILL RUIN YOU
  • PUSH YOURSELF TO THE LIMIT AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE
  • RAISE BOYS AND GIRLS THE SAME WAY
  • RANDOM MATING IS GOOD FOR DEBUNKING SEX MYTHS
  • RECHANNELING DESTRUCTIVE IMPULSES IS A SIGN OF MATURITY
  • RECLUSES ALWAYS GET WEAK
  • REDISTRIBUTING WEALTH IS IMPERATIVE
  • REALITIVITY IS NO BOON TO MANKIND
  • RELIGION CAUSES AS MANY PROBLEMS AS IT SOLVES
  • REMEMBER YOU ALWAYS HAVE FREEDOM OF CHOICE
  • REPETITION IS THE BEST WAY TO LEARN
  • RESOLUTIONS SERVE TO EASE YOUR CONSCIENCE
  • REVOLUTION BEGINS WITH THE CHANGES IN THE INDIVIDUAL
  • ROMANTIC LOVE WAS INVENTED TO MANIPULATE WOMEN
  • ROUTINE IS A LINK WITH THE PAST
  • ROUTINE SMALL EXCESSES ARE WORSE THAN THE OCCASIONAL EBAUCH
  • SACRIFICING YOURSELF FOR A BAD CAUSE IS NOT A MORAL ACT
  • SALVATION CAN'T BE BOUGHT AND SOLD
  • SELF-AWARENESS CAN BE CRIPPLING
  • SELF-CONTEMPT CAN DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD
  • SELFISHNESS IS THE MOST BASIC MOTIVATION
  • SELFLESSNESS IS THE HIGHEST ACHIEVMENT
  • SEPRATISM IS THE WAY TO A NEW BEGINNING
  • SEX DIFFERENCES ARE HERE TO STAY
  • SIN IS A MEANS OF SOCIAL CONTROL
  • SLIPPING INTO MADNESS IS GOOD FOR THE SAKE OF COMPARISON
  • SLOPPY THINKING GETS WORSE OVER TIME
  • SOLITUDE IS ENRICHING
  • SOME STONES ARE BETTER LEFT UNTURNED
  • SOME WOUNDS NEVER HEAL
  • SOMETIMES ALL YOU CAN DO IS LOOK THE OTHER WAY
  • SOMETIMES SCIENCE ADVANCES FASTER THAN IT SHOULD
  • SOMETIMES THINGS SEEMS TO HAPPEN OF THEIR OWN ACCORD
  • SPENDING TOO MUCH TIME ON SELF-IMPROVEMENT IS ANTI-SOCIAL
  • STARVATION IS NATURE'S WAY
  • STATIS IS A DREAM STATE
  • STERLIZATION IS THE WEAPON OF THE RULERS
  • STRONG EMOTIONAL ATTACHMENT STEMS FROM BASIC INSECURITY
  • STUPID PEOPLE SHOULDN'T BREED
  • SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST APPLIES TO MEN AND ANIMALS
  • SYMBOLS ARE MORE MEANINGFUL THAN THINGS THEMSELVES
  • TAKING A STRONG STAND PUBLICIZES THE OPPOSITE POSITION
  • TALKING IS USED TO HIDE ONE'S INABILITY TO ACT
  • TEASING PEOPLE SEXUALLY CAN HAVE UGLY CONSEQUENCES
  • TECHNOLOGY WILL MAKE OR BREAK US
  • THE CRUELEST DISAPPOINTMENT IS WHEN YOU LET YOURSELF DOWN
  • THE DESIRE TO REPRODUCE IS A DEATH WISH
  • THE FAMILY IS LIVING ON BORROWED TIME
  • THE IDEA OF REVOLUTION IS AN ADOLESCENT FANTASY
  • THE IDEA OF TRANSCENDENCE IS USED TO OBSCURE OPPRESSION
  • THE IDIOSYNCRATIC HAS LOST ITS AUTHORITY
  • THE LAND BELONGS TO NO ONE
  • THE MORE YOU KNOW THE BETTER YOU ARE
  • THE MOST PROFOUND THINGS ARE INEXPRESSIBLE
  • THE MUNDANE IS TO BE CHERISHED
  • THE NEW IS NOTHING BUT A RESTATEMENT OF THE OLD
  • THE ONLY WAY TO BE PURE IS TO STAY YOURSELF
  • THE SUM OF ALL YOUR ACTIONS DETERMINES WHAT YOU ARE
  • THE UNATTAINABLE INVARIABLE IS ATTRACTIVE
  • THE WORLD OPERATES ACCORDING TO DISCOVERABLE LAWS
  • THERE ARE TOO FEW IMMUTABLE TRUTHS TODAY
  • THERE'S A FINE LINE BETWEEN INFORMATION AND PROPAGANDA
  • THERE'S NO SENSE BEING ANYWHERE BUT THE TOP OF THE HEAP
  • THERE'S NOTHING EXCEPT WHAT YOU SENSE
  • THERE'S NOTHING REDEEMING IN TOIL
  • THINKING TOO MUCH CAN ONLY CAUSE PROBLEMS
  • THREATENING SOMEONE SEXUALLY IS A HORRIBLE ACT
  • TIMIDITY IS LAUGHABLE
  • TO DISAGREE PRESUPPOSES MORAL INTREGRITY
  • TO VOLUNTEER IS REACTIONARY
  • TORTURE IS BARBARIC
  • TRADING A LIFE FOR A LIFE IS FAIR ENOUGH
  • TRUE FREEDOM IS FRIGHTFUL
  • UNIQUE THINGS MUST BE THE MOST VALUABLE
  • UNQUESTIONING LOVE DEMONSTRATES THE LARGESSE OF SPIRIT
  • USING FORCE TO STOP FORCE IS ABSURD
  • VIOLENCE IS PERMISSIBLE EVEN DESIRABLE OCCASIONALLY
  • WAR IS THE PURIFICATION RITE
  • WE MUST MAKE SACRIFICES TO MAINTAIN OUR QUALITY OF LIFE
  • WHEN SOMETHING TERRIBLE HAPPENS PEOPLE WAKE UP
  • WISHING THINGS AWAY IS NOT EFFECTIVE
  • WITH PERSEVERANCE YOU CAN DISCOVER ANY TRUTH
  • WORDS TEND TO BE INADEQUATE
  • WORRYING CAN HELP YOU PREPARE
  • YOU ARE A VICTIM OF THE RULES YOU LIVE BY
  • YOU ARE GUIELESS IN YOUR DREAMS
  • YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR CONSTITUTING THE MEANING OF THINGS
  • YOU ARE THE PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE
  • YOU CAN LIVE THROUGH YOUR DESCENDANTS
  • YOU CAN NEVER OUTRUN YOURSELF
  • YOU CAN PULL YOURSELF OUT OF ANY HOLE
  • YOU CAN'T EXPECT PEOPLE TO BE SOMETHING THEY'RE NOT
  • YOU CAN'T FOOL OTHERS IF YOU'RE FOOLING YOURSELF
  • YOU DIG YOUR OWN GRAVE
  • YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT'S WHAT UNTIL YOU SUPPORT YOURSELF
  • YOU GET THE FACE YOU DESERVE
  • YOU HAVE TO HURT OTHERS TO BE EXTRODINARY
  • YOU MUST BE INTIMATE WITH A TOKEN FEW
  • YOU MUST DISAGREE WITH AUTHORITY FIGURES
  • YOU MUST HAVE ONE GRAND PASSION
  • YOU MUST KNOW WHERE YOU STOP AND THE WORLD BEGINS
  • YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT PEOPLE REALLY THINK ABOUT YOU
  • YOU ONLY CAN UNDERSTAND SOMEONE OF YOUR OWN SEX
  • YOU OWN THE WORLD NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND
  • YOU SHOULD TRAVEL LIGHT
  • YOU SHOULD STUDY AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
  • YOUR ACTIONS ARE POINTLESS IF NO ONE NOTICES
  • YOUR OLDEST FEARS ARE THE WORST ONES


    SURVIVAL SERIES (1983-1985)

  • YOU ARE TRAPPED ON THE EARTH SO YOU WILL EXPLODE
  • WHAT URGE WILL SAVE US IF SEX WON'T
  • PUT FOOD OUT IN THE SAME PLACE EVERY DAY AND TALK TO THE PEOPLE WHO COME TO EAT AND ORGANIZE THEM
  • SAVOR KINDNESS BECAUSE CREULTY IS POSSIBLE LATER
  • DANCE ON DOWN TO THE GOVERNMENT AND TELL THEM YOUR EAGER TO RULE BECAUSE YOU KNOW WHAT'S GOOD FOR YOU
  • THE BREAKDOWN COMES WHEN YOU STOP CONTROLLING YOURSELF AND WANT THE RELEASE OF A BLOODBATH
  • SPIT ALL OVER SOMEONE WITH A MOUTHFUL OF MILK IF YOU WANT TO FIND OUT SOMETHING ABOUT HIS PERSONALITY FAST
  • MOTHERS WITH REASON TO SOB SHOULD DO IT IN GROUPS IN PUBLIC AND WAIT FOR OFFERS
  • OUTER SPACE IS WHERE YOU DISCOVER WONDER AND WHERE YOU FIGHT AND NEVER HURT EARTH IF YOU STOP BELIEVING THIS YOUR MOOD TURNS UGLY
  • DIE FAST AND QUIET WHEN THEY INTERROGATE YOU OR LIVE SO LONG THEY ARE ASHAMED TO HURT YOU ANYMORE
  • IF YOU HAD BEHAVED NICELY THE COMMUNISTS WOULDN'T EXIST
  • TRUST VISIONS THAT DON'T FEATURE BUCKETS OF BLOOD
  • IN A DREAM YOU SAW A WAY TO SURVIVE AND YOU WERE FULL OF JOY
  • IF YOU'RE CONSIDERED USELESS NO ONE WILL FEED YOU ANYMORE
  • WHEN YOU EXPECT FAIR PLAY YOU CREATE AN INFECTIOUS BUBBLE OF MADNESS AROUND YOU
  • YOU ARE SO COMPLEX THAT YOU DON'T ALWAYS RESPOND TO DANGER
  • MEN DON'T PROTECT YOU ANYMORE
  • WITH ALL THE HOLES IN YOU ALREADY THERE'S NO REASON TO DEFINE THE OUTSIDE ENVIROMENT AS ALIEN
  • WHEN SOMEONE BEATS YOU WITH A FLASHLIGHT YOU MAKE THE LIGHT SHINE IN ALL DIRECTIONS
  • FINDING EXTREME PLEASURE WILL MAKE YOU A BETTER ABOUT WHAT THRILLS YOU
  • USE A STUN GUN WHEN THE PERSON COMING AT YOU HAS A GOOD EXCUSE
  • IT IS IN YOUR INTEREST TO FIND A WAY TO BE VERY TENDER
  • THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR WILL BE SECRET
  • THE CONVERSATION ALWAYS TURNS TO LIVING LONG ENOUGH TO HAVE FUN
  • WHAT COUNTRY SHOULD YOU ADOPT IF YOU HATE POOR PEOPLE?
  • USE WHAT IS DOMINANT IN CULTURE AND CHANGE IT QUICKLY
  • PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT
  • YOU ARE CAUGHT THINKING ABOUT KILLING ANYONE YOU WANT
  • IT'S HARD TO KNOW IF YOU'RE CRAZY IF YOU FEEL YOU'RE IN DANGER ALL THE TIME NOW
  • YOU CAN'T REACH PEOPLE WHO CAN KILL YOU ANY TIME SO YOU HAVE TO GO HOME AND THINK ABOUT WHAT TO DO
  • THE FUTURE IS STUPID
  • HIDE UNDERWATER OR ANYWHERE SO UNDISTRUBED YOU FEEL THE JERK OF PLEASURE WHEN AN IDEA COMES
  • SOMEONE ELSE'S BODY IS A PLACE FOR YOUR MIND TO GO
  • WHEN THERE'S NO SAFE PLACE TO SLEEP YOU'RE TIRED FROM WALKING ALL DAY AND EXHAUSTED FROM THE NIGHT BECAUSE IT'S TWICE AS DANGEROUS THEN
  • IT'S EASY TO GET MILLIONS OF PEOPLE ON EVERY CONTINENT TO PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO EATING AND EQUAL OPPURTUNITY
  • GO WHERE PEOPLE SLEEP AND SEE IF THEY ARE SAFE
  • HANDS ON YOUR BREAST CAN KEEP YOUR HEART BEATING
  • TURN SOFT AND LOVELY ANYTIME YOU HAVE THE CHANCE
  • IT IS FUN TO WALK CARELESSLY IN A DEATH ZONE
  • YOU LIVE THE SURPRISE RESULTS OF OLD PLAINS
  • LET YOUR HAND WANDER ON THE FLESH TO MAKE POSSIBILITY MULTIPLY
  • IT IS EMBARRASHING TO BE CAUGHT AND KILLED FOR STUPID REASONS
  • SHOOT INTO INFINITE SPACE TO HIT A TARGET IN TIME AND CALL IT INEVITABLE
  • YOU HOVER NEAR LOVELY UNCONSCIOUS LIFE-FORMS THAT OFFER NO IMMEDIATE RESISTANCE
  • PEOPLE LOOK LIKE THEY ARE DANCING BEFORE THEY LOVE
  • BODIES LIE IN THE BRIGHT GRASS AND SOME ARE MURDERED AND SOME ARE PICNICKING
  • SILLY HOLES IN PEOPLE ARE BREEDING OR ARE FROM SHOOTING
  • YOUR MODERN FACE SEEMS THE SURPRISE ENDING


    LUSTMORD:

    Lusmord is the German word for sexual murder invovling rape. With LUSTMORD, Jenny Holzer peels back those layers of insulation and invites viewers into the dark corners of the human psyche. It has become appartent that sex murder is an evil so persistent in western culture that it has been "tolerated" to a suprising degree. We want to belive that only the deeply insane, someone reduced to animalistic violence, could twist love and hate in such a sadistic manner, but humans have created these heinous crimes for centuries. After hearing about the Bosnian war crimes Jenny Holzer was inspired to create LUSTMORD. LUSTMORD has been building ever since TRUISMS "Murder has its sexual side" Through the years, the anonymous tone voice of authority has evolded into a more pseronal and despairing voice The ideas of sex, war and death have continued, but now they take a personal tone as you hear the victim and the child of the victim's view.

    Lusmord is composed of 4 LED, text billboard, signs. It also has tables or bones, certain bones that are connected with sensuality. For example, fingertips and collar bones. Certain bones have metal bands around them saying parts of the poem: HER BREASTS for example. The led signs interchange the perpetrator, the victim and the observer's text. When reading the billboard text compiled you perceive the encounter as a sexual tryst at first. Talks about breasts and hair and some tenderness. Then, when getting into the subject you realize pain was invovled, immense pain along with someone watching in anguish. The exhibit was built like a tomb, lights only from the billboard signs. You are allowed to touch the bones, the symbols of a lost woman and her lost sensuality.

    This exhibit although graphic is meant to expose a dark pysche and the sides of a rape/murder, a LUSTMORD. The graphicness is a tool to make the viewer realize their own mortality and the innocence of people involved in a war crime.

    PERPETRATOR

    I SWIN IN HER AS SHE QUITES.
    I SINK ON HER.
    I SING HER A SONG ABOUT US.
    I STEP ON HER HANDS.
    I SPLAY HER FINGERS.
    SHE ROOTS WITH HER BLUNT FACE.
    SHE HUNTS ME WITH HER MOUTH.
    SHE HAS THREE COLORS IN HER EYES.
    I BITE HER CLOSED AGAIN.
    I AM NEAR HER MILK.
    I TELL HER TO SOAP HERSELF.
    SHE TIGHTENS AND I HIT HER.
    I WASH HER OUT.
    I WATCH HER WHILE SHE THINKS ABOUT ME.
    HER SALIVA RUNS WHEN SHE SLEEPS.
    I HOOK HER SPINE.
    SHE HAS A URINE SMELL.
    HER SWALLOW REFLEX IS GONE.
    HER HEAD EXPLODES IN THE FIRE.
    HER BREASTS ARE ALL NIPPLE.
    SHE ACTS LIKE AN ANIMAL LEFT FOR COOKING.
    I FIND HER SQUATTING ON HER HEELS AND THIS OPENS HER SO I CAN GET HER FROM BELOW.
    I TAKE HER FACE WITH ITS FINE HAIRS. I POSITION HER MOUTH.
    I WANT TO FUCK HER WHERE SHE HAS TOO MUCH HAIR.
    I HOOK MY CHIN OVER HER SHOULDER. NOW THAT SHE CAN STILL CONCENTRATE.
    SHE HAS NO TASTE LEFT TO HER AND THIS MAKES IT EASIER FOR ME.
    THE COLOR OF HER WHERE SHE IS INSIDE IS ENOUGH TO MAKE ME KILL HER.
    

    VICTIM

    I AM AWAKE IN A PLACE WHERE WOMEN DIE.
    THE BIRD TURNS ITS HEAD AND LOOKS AT ME WITH ONE EYE AS YOU ENTER.
    MY BREASTS ARE SO SWOLLEN THAT I BITE THEM
    YOUR AWFUL LANGUAGE IS IN THE AIR BY MY HEAD
    I DO NOT LIKE TO WALK BECAUSE I FEEL IT BETWEEN MY LEGS
    HAIR IS STUCK INSIDE ME
    MY NOSE BROKE IN THE GRASS. MY EYES ARE SORE MOVING AGAINST YOUR PALM.
    I HAVE THE BLOOD JELLY.
    WITH YOU INSDE ME COMES THE KNOWLEDGE OF MY DEATH.
    YOU HAVE SKIN IN YOUR MOUTH. YOU LICK ME STUPIDLY.
    YOU CONFUSE ME WITH SOMETHING THAY IS IN YOU. I WILL NOT PREDICT HOW YOU WANT TO USE ME.
    I FEEL WHO YOU ARE AND IT DOES ME NO GOOD AT ALL.
    I TRY TO EXCITE MYSELF SO I STAY CRAZY.
    WHAT IS LEFT ON THE BLANKET IS CLEAR AND THE COLOR OF HELL.
    

    OBSERVER

    I WANT TO LIE DOWN BESIDE HER.
    I HAVE NOT SINCE I WAS A CHILD.
    I WILL BE COVERED BY WHAT HAS COME FROM HER.
    SHE BEINGS TO MAKE MISTAKES IN HER LANGUAGE AND I CORRECT HER THE WAY SHE HAS TAUGHT ME.
    I FIND HER TOWERLS SHOVED IN TIGHT SPOTS. I TAKE THEM TO BURN ALTHOUGH I FEAR TOUCHING THINGS.
    SHE ASKS ME TO SLEEP IN THE HOUSE BUT I WILL NOT WITH HER NEW BODY AND ITS NOISES AND WETNESS.
    SHE SMILES AT ME BECAUSE SHE IMAGINES I CAN HELP HER.
    SHE COUGHS THE MOUTH STRINGS.
    I WANT TO BRUSH HER HAIR BUT THE SMELL OF HER MAKES ME CROSS THE ROOM. I HELD MY BREATH AS LONG AS I COULD. I KNOW I DISAPPOINT HER.
    SHE STARTED RUNNING WHEN EVERYTHING BEGAN POURING FROM HER BECAUSE SHE DID NOT WANT TO BE SEEN.
    SHE FELL ON THE FLOOR IN MY ROOM. SHE TRIED TO BE CLEAN BUT SHE WAS NOT. I SEE HER TRAIL.
    HER GORE IS IN THE BALL OF CLEANING RAGS. I CARRY OUT THE DAMPNESS FROM MY MOTHER. I RETURN TO HIDE HER JEWELRY
    THE BLACK SPECKS INSIDE MY EYES FLOAT ON HER BODY. I WATCH THEM WHILE I THINK ABOUT HER.
    I WANT TO SUCK ON HER TO MAKE HER RESPOND.
    I WALK OUTSIDE TO THE PATH AND SEE THE PLANTS, EACH HANDLED BY HER, UNMARKED BY HER DYING.
    SHE IS NARROW AND FLAT IN THE BLUE SACK AND I STAND WHEN THEY LIFT HER.
    

    See also Jenny Holzer's Interactive Truism

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