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Sponsored by: Sponsor: Fundación BBVA
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Did you know that...?

As part of the Didaktika project, the museum designs educational spaces and special activities that complement every exhibition, providing tools and resources, both in galleries and online, to facilitate the appreciation and understanding of the works on display.

In this case, this didactic section contextualizes the art of Jenny Holzer (b. 1950, Gallipolis, Ohio) from the start of her career until the present day. It underlines the crucial presence of language in Holzer‘s art, while also highlighting the public dimension of her work.

FROM THE 1970s TO NOW: JENNY HOLZER IN CONTEXT


Jenny Holzer is a person of carefully chosen words. In the late 1970s, she arrived in New York City at a time of cultural and political revolution. Feminism, racial inequality, poverty, the Vietnam War, and the AIDS epidemic were among key issues of the period. Holzer’s initial contribution to the unfolding conversations around her were her Truisms (1977–79)—hundreds of brief, often contradictory statements on social, economic, personal and political matters. Presented on anonymous street posters, they were designed to invite passersby to stop and consider the complexity of socially accepted truths.

“Text … can be abused or can be truthful. It depends on who’s doing what and why”


In 1979 and 1980, as a member of the artists’ collective Collaborative Projects, Holzer participated in the radical Manifesto Show—an exhibition she co-organized with experimental film artist Colen Fitzgibbon—and Times Square Show. These democratic, do-it-yourself exhibitions defied existing expectations about what art is, for whom it is made, where it is installed, and what it can do for society. Like other conceptual artists, Holzer has challenged the limits of art. Writing is her medium, and the public her audience. By inscribing her texts on everyday objects such as T-shirts, pantyhose, cups, plates, condoms, and postcards Holzer has brought surprise, provocation, and critique to the public realm.

“I like placing content wherever people look, and that can be at the bottom of a cup or on a shirt or hat or on the surface of a river or all over a building”


Since the 1980s, Holzer has used contemporary technologies to transform language through light, color, and movement. LED installations—including her 1997 Installation for Bilbao, on view in Gallery 101—brought her words from the street to the inside of the museum. Light projections on buildings and other landmarks, including the Arno River in Florence (1996), the Louvre Pyramid in Paris (2001), and City Hall in London (2006) took text back outside and into the city. This exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao features new light projections created for the museum’s exterior façade, on view after dark throughout the end of March. For Holzer, electronic signs and light projections are ways to bring spaces to life through the power of language.

“When art or writing functions, it raises ideas and has them felt, and this knowledge and feeling may be the basis for decent action”


At every stage of her career, Holzer’s art has sparked dialogue around the concerns of the day, whether political conflict, war, social justice, or gender equality. Her feminist perspective continues to inspire the ongoing fight for human rights, and her original Truisms resonate with a new generation of activists and advocates. Now as always, Holzer’s art invites public engagement and opens a space for debate.

“Read the paper. Be alive to what is around you. Make sure it resonates within”


I WOKE UP NAKED, 2019
Text: Interviews with U.S. military veterans conducted by Protect Our Defenders and
Interchange Productions, © 2019 by Protect Our Defenders Foundation. Used with
permission of Protect Our Defenders. Names have been changed or omitted to protect
identities.
© 2019 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
Video: Killstress Designs

I WOKE UP NAKED, 2019
LED sign with blue, green & red diodes
358.1 x 14 x 14 cm
Text: Interviews conducted by Human Rights Watch (HRW), © 1992–2017 by HRW. Used with permission of HRW. All names have been changed to protect identities.
© 2019 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
Video: Killstress Designs

Holzer Duet...Truisms, 1985
Dance performance, (Larry Goldhuber, Bill T. Jones)
Text: Truisms, 1977–79
Joyce Theatre, New York, 1985
© 1985 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS)

The following is a brief quote given by the prominent choreographer Bill T. Jones, who created the piece in collaboration with Holzer’s Truisms text:

"I do remember when Jenny came to see a rehearsal (the only time she saw the work, I believe...) her only comment was the she’d have liked to see more conflict. The work was designed to suggest the difference between Larry’s physicality and my own. He is in a dress shirt and trousers, I look like an athlete/dancer, he is large, I am slender, he is white, I am black... These contrasts were supposed to suggest a schism that is challenged by our cooperation, grappling and handling of one another. Jenny’s truisms are an ironic and ’knowing’ counterpoint to this ritual centered in our bodies." Bill T. Jones

Activities

Creative Sessions: Augmented Reality

Creative Sessions: Augmented Reality

May 11 and 12, 12:30 pm 

In her works, Jenny Holzer uses the latest technologies, such as virtual reality. In this two-session workshop led by Carlos Seijó, participants will learn the basics of 360-degree video production, become familiar with scanning 3-D objects, etc.

Venue: Educational Areas

Foto Shared Reflections

Shared Reflections


- Curatorial Vision: Wednesday, March 27. Petra Joos, exhibition curator and curator of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao 

- Key Concepts: Wednesday, April 3. Marta Arzak, Associate Director of Education and Interpretation, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

* Sponsored by Fundación Vizcaína Aguirre.

Foto Film: About Jenny Holzer

Film: About Jenny Holzer

 April 25, 7 pm

This documentary film by Claudia Müller premiered in 2011 and was shot in close collaboration with the artist over the course of 10 years.

Venue: Museum Auditorium

Foto Creative Sessions: Fashionable Words

Creative Sessions: Fashionable Words

May 3 and 10, 6:30 pm

Jenny Holzer silkscreened some of her Truisms onto T-shirts and stockings. In this two-session workshop led by artist and designer Miriam Ocáriz, design and language will make a perfect tandem.

Venue: Education Room

Holzer and Poets Around the World

June 21, 7 pm

An enjoyable literary soirée including poems by some of the writers present in Holzer’s work.

Venue: Museum Auditorium

Further Information

Foto Truisms and Inflammatory Essays, open to participation

Truisms and Inflammatory Essays, open to participation

The Truisms and Inflammatory Essays series were produced by Jenny Holzer in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and they first appeared anonymously on the streets of New York.

For enquiries, please call +34 944 359 067 (from 9 am to 2 pm).

Further Information

Resources

Audio guide and adapted guides

Audio guide and adapted guides

The audio guides, available at the Museum entrance, provide further information on the works in each exhibition.

Ask at the Information desk for audio/video guides for people with cognitive, hearing and/or visual impairments.  

Listen to audio guides

visitas-expres

Express Tours

Free quick tours on the artworks exhibited. Check times, topics, and available languages at the Information desk.

Tickets: Free admission. Max. 20 people (first come, first served; no prior reservation). Groups will not be admitted

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