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Writing & DifficultyJenny Holzer

January 22, 2009

Jenny Holzer discusses her difficult relationship to writing during the installation of the exhibition PROTECT PROTECT at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. “I have no idea whether I’ll write again,” says Holzer. “One reason why I left it is because I tend to write about the most ghastly subjects. So it’s not just the difficulty in having something turn out right, it’s the difficulty of staying with the material long enough to complete it.”

While multiple factors have contributed to Holzer’s writing hiatus, her body of work remains as poignant and provocative as ever. Whether questioning capitalist impulses, or describing torture, Holzer’s art expresses concepts and questions through subversive lightworks which present her queries through projections or streamlined LED marquis. “My work might be like theater in that I hope there’s an audience,” says the artist.

Featured works include “Red Yellow Looming” (2004), “Lustmord” (2007), “Protect Protect deep purple” (2007), and “For Chicago” (2008), among others.

More information and credits


Producer: Wesley Miller, Nick Ravich & Kelly Shindler. Interview: Susan Sollins. Camera & Sound: George Monteleone and Alexander Stewart. Editor: Jenny Chiurco. Artwork Courtesy: Jenny Holzer. Text Courtesy: Wislawa Szymborska. Special Thanks: MCA Chicago & Karla Loring.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Jenny Holzer

Whether questioning consumerist impulses, describing torture, or lamenting death and disease, Jenny Holzer’s use of language provokes a response in the viewer. While her subversive work often blends in among advertisements in public space, its arresting content violates expectations. Holzer’s texts—such as the aphorisms “Abuse of power comes as no surprise” and “Protect me from what I want”—have appeared on posters and condoms, and as electronic LED signs and projections of xenon light.

“It’s not just the difficulty in having something turn out right, it’s the difficulty of staying with the material long enough to complete it.”

Jenny Holzer

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Collaborating with Poet Henri Cole

Artist Jenny Holzer and poet Henri Cole discuss how their collaboration began, and the ways in which their work together has evolved since.

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