TATE MODERN LONDON 7.4.15
When I've come across Jenny Holster's eye-popping slogans strung across the walls and ceilings of various galleries, I've been less than enthusiastic. But when Tate Modern gives her an Artists’ Room devoted solely to her work, it’s time to think again.
Up 5 floors of escalators, turn left, find Room 8 – and light sweeps over you like a wave of water or sound. Blue Purple Tilt was created specially for the room and takes it over: seven double-sided vertical LED signs in luscious colour. It's a shock. Only the far wall feels safe.
At her best, as the artist Lucy Cumming said in The Guardian last year, Jenny Holzer 'can make a cliche mysterious or a haiku monumental'. The notice on the wall cautions ‘Its scale emphasises that it is a sculptural object in its own right. Indeed the viewer’s response may be shaped as much by the hypnotic glow of the letters streaming smoothly or flashing abruptly as it is by the words themselves’.
Amen to that!
But what are the words saying? I edge cautiously nearer as they move in and out of my vision, marching up the slope and disappearing round the back:
- Enjoy yourself because you can’t change anything anyway
- Everyone’s work is equally important
- Exceptional people deserve special concessions
- Good deeds are eventually rewarded
- Extreme self consciousness leads to perversion...
The savage colours and the anonymity invite a response. People I don't know are trying to make sense. Is she bearing witness or lamenting or provoking or reassuring? Would it be a pantomime audience's 'Oh no, it isn't!' or a more reflective 'It depends what you mean by...'.
If you want to find (and argue with) more, then try mfx.dasburo.com/art/truisms.html where her Truisms are listed in alphabetical order.
Holzer says that since childhood she has been interested in ‘rapturous writing’ and wanted to write ‘ecstatic, fantastic things’, inspired by the texts of political, religious and other passionate writers.
On the right is one of her
www.emptykingdom.com/featured/inflammatory-essays-jenny-holzer, each consisting of exactly 100 words in 20 lines. They were originally fly-posted across New York. Holzer uses more or less anything to carry her messages: plaques, printed fliers. stone benches, telephone booths, stickers, T-shirts, condoms, paintings, photos, video, light projection, and the Internet. To see even more go to tate.org.uk/servlet/ArtistWorks?artistid=1307 .