Thursday 21 March 2019

Jenny Holzer - Artist Rooms

Jenny Holzer - Artist Rooms,

at Tate Modern.

The anteroom:

In this anteroom,  the walls are covered with various sayings, clichés and maxims that Holzer has been gathering since she was at art school. At first she presented the phrases anonymously, printed on posters that she pasted on the streets of New York City. She recalls, 'I offered them up to myself and others, asking: 'How do you cope - within and without - when all these views are present, sometimes clamouring, sometime fighting, sometimes murderous?' 

The Central room:

This central room is dominated by a ceiling-mounted neon sculpture

On the floor a number of marble benches which feature excerpts of poems by the acclaimed author Anna Swirszczynska, who wrote about her experiences as a nurse and member of the Polish Resistance during WWII.

Holzer began making stone benches in the mid-1980s and just as they function in city parks and cemeteries, everyone is invited to sit and to converse.

On the walls are a number of bronze plaques which feature a set of quiet observations, directions and warnings, titled The Survival Series, (1984) which were written for display on electronic signs, notably in New York's Times Square in 1986. The texts also were cast as aluminium plaques. Each cautionary sentence instructs, informs or questions the ways an individual responds to the political, social, physical, psychological and personal environment.  Protect me from what I want is a key Survival text.

The first side room:

Blue Purple Tilt, 2007 (6 light emitting diode columns)

This work includes a survey of Holzer's writings. She became interested in more sculptural LED presentations and so propped the electronic displays against the wall.

More sayings from the Living series

After Dark It's a Relief to See a Girl (1981) which is part of the Living series. 

When You Expect Fair Play... (1983-84) in collaboration with Lady Pink

Holzer worked with New York Graffiti artist Lady Pink to reinterpret texts from the Survival series. She asked Ilona Granet, an artist specialising in sign painting, to hand letter the statements.

Second side room:

They Left Me, 2018

Holzer conveys the toll of warfare and its aftermath. The electronic sign illuminates accounts by Syrian refugees collected by Save the Children and Human Rights Watch, as well as Anna Swirszczynska's poetry of siege and resistance in WWII.

After September 11, 2001, Holzer started paintings of declassified U.S. government documents relating to intervention in the Middle East. You can see where some information in the original documents was redacted before release to the public. The paintings faithfully reproduce the original documents, apart from enlarging their scale and at times adding colour to emphasize the content. The two large paintings are slides from a PowerPoint presentation used to brief the White House in advance of the US's and UK's invasion of Iraq. 'Shock and Awe' is used to describe military tactics. 

A document of 'Alternative Interrogation Techniques'.

I've Just Been Shot, 2017, (embroidered surplus sleeping bag)

An army-issue sleeping bag, slumped in the corner, evokes the body it once held. It is stitched with first-person testimony of a veteran British military nurse, contributed by The Not Forgotten Association.

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