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Indepth Arts News:

"Jenny Holzer: Truth Before Power"
2004-06-12 until 2004-09-15
Kunsthaus Bregenz
Bregenz, , AT

The Kunsthaus Bregenz is pleased to announce the opening of a major exhibition, TRUTH BEFORE POWER, by the American artist Jenny Holzer. The show explores the United States government’s complex political and commercial relations with the Middle East from the end of the Second World War to the present, the United States’ current “war” on terrorism, the consequences of 9/11 and ensuing debate, the theory and practice of intelligence and counter-intelligence, and the problem of achieving a just and workable balance between secrecy and transparency.

Almost all texts used by Holzer are US government documents – primarily official communications, reports, and letters made available to the public under the landmark legislation, the “Freedom of Information Act.”  Many texts were originally “classified” or confidential at the time they were written, and remain heavily redacted.

TRUTH BEFORE POWER, the title of Holzer’s Bregenz project, alludes to “Estimates and Influence,” an essay published in 1968 arguing that unbiased intellectual rigor must be the first principle of intelligence work, written by Sherman Kent, one of the founders of the CIA.

Holzer will install her electronic sign arrays on the top three floors of the Kunsthaus. Texts for the museum’s second floor, programmed in red and amber, were chosen to convey the welter of voices involved in foreign policy decision-making during the administrations of the presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, and George W. Bush. Texts for the museum’s third floor, programmed in amber, were selected from the literature of American intelligence to explicate the philosophy of its work and its contribution to presidential foreign policy, or illustrate the relationship between the intelligence community and legislators engaged in its oversight. A recent work by the contemporary American poet, Henri Cole, “To the Forty-Third President,” will appear in blue electronics on the first floor of the Kunsthaus, and in companion tree installations created by Holzer for the Kunsthaus lobby and the nearby Johanniterkirche in Feldkirch.

Xenon projections

Since 1996, Holzer has thrown scrolling texts of monumental scale onto architecture and landscape using high powered projectors fitted with xenon lamps that run 185 mm film. “Seen and absorbed rather than read,” much like advertising and public announcements, in the view of critic Peter Schjeldahl, Holzer’s xenon venues have included the Spanish Steps in Rome, the Louvre in Paris, the National Gallery in Berlin, and the undeveloped landscape surrounding Rio de Janeiro. For her Bregenz project, Holzer has chosen the glass façade of the Kunsthaus for the inaugural evening of the show. Among other selected venues on succeeding nights are Schattenburg Castle in Feldkirch, the dam of the Vermunt Reservoir, and the Kanisfluh Palisades. Text is taken from government documents and Henri Cole’s poem fromthe exhibition as well as from the artist’s writing. At some sites, including Vermunt Reservoir, a special largeformat film will be shown.

Jenny Holzer

For more than twenty-five years, Jenny Holzer has presented her astringent ideas, arguments, and sorrows in public places and international exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale, the Reichstag, and the Guggenheim Museums in New York and Bilbao. Her medium, whether formulated as a t-shirt, as a plaque, or as an LED sign, always is writing, and the public dimension is integral to the delivery of her work.  Starting in the late 1970s with the Truisms and Inflammatory Essays posters which Holzer plastered on buildings all over New York, and up to her recent xenon projections on prominent façades, her texts and practices have rivaled ignorance and violence with humor, kindness and moral courage.  Holzer lives and works in Hoosick, NY.

Henri Cole

Henri Cole has published five collections of work, most recently Middle Earth (Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 2003), which received the prestigious Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award in 2004. A Briggs-Copeland lecturer at Harvard from 1993-1999, he has taught at Yale, Columbia, and Smith, and currently teaches at Bennington College. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 2004, he has been praised by critic Harold Bloom as “a central poet of his generation.” Cole lives in Boston, MA.

The Kunsthaus Bregenz exhibition opens to the public on June 12, 2004 and will remain on view until September 5, 2004. Xenon projections will take place at various locations in Bregenz and Vorarlberg from 11–18 June. A catalogue, TRUTH BEFORE POWER, will be published in conjunction with the show.

Jenny Holzer
Xenon for Bregenz 2004
Text: To the Forty-third President
by Henri Cole

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