I Want to Go to the Future Please: Jenny Holzer and the End of a Century

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I Want to Go to the Future Please: Jenny Holzer and the End of a Century

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Title: I Want to Go to the Future Please: Jenny Holzer and the End of a Century
Author: Breslin, David Conrad
Citation: Breslin, David Conrad. 2013. I Want to Go to the Future Please: Jenny Holzer and the End of a Century. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: The task of this dissertation is to assess the historical conditions that permitted Jenny Holzer to formulate a practice premised on language and conceptions of public space to break from historical avant-garde and neo-avant-garde practices. My aim is to demonstrate the recourses sought by Holzer—through language, collaboration, and form—to reveal the operations of repression at work in the public spaces of place and language in particular moments of crises at the end of a—and at the ruined start of a new—century: the economic collapse of the late 1970s, the AIDs crisis, and the wars on terror following the events of September 11, 2001. The exemplary projects that I study in this dissertation—from her Truisms posters in downtown Manhattan in the late 1970s, to her collaborative work with The Offices of Fend, Fitzgibbon, Holzer, Nadin, Prince, and Winters, to her work with electronic signs and stone sarcophagi to address the AIDS crisis at its most dire period in 1987-89, to her light projections whose moving impermanence reflect on the continuity of mourning as an activity—each demonstrate the impossibility of neutrality. Concentrating on works conceptualized for and realized (for the most part) in New York City over the course of a quarter century, my study uses the seeming consistency of geography, or at least the fixity of a longitudinal and latitudinal intersection, to indicate the seismic changes inflicted on the city and its residents by economic, legal, political, and violent actions—and, in the case of the AIDS crisis, criminal inaction. My dissertation argues that Holzer’s unflagging demonstration of threatened subjectivity is the necessary form of protest to an ever-more bureaucratized world.
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Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:10436247
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