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Jenny Holzer at MoCA


The Buchel fiasco is past, and Building 5 at Mass MoCA has a new installation, PROJECTIONS, by Jenny Holzer. (you can view a webcam image of the installation at http://www.massmoca.org/projections.php). Holzer is reknown internationally for her text pieces which are more often now projected in outdoor settings and are monumentally critical of the status quo and politically charged.
In the current installation, two huge xenon projectors are mounted at either end of the 300-foot space spilling out a scrolling text taken from the works of Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska . The language addresses the vulnerability of the body as a site for torture, and the proximity of terror tactics as they impact our souls.
Initially shown in Austria in 2006 and later at the Venice Biennale, the piece is a flood of light and langauge spilling over the beamed surfaces of the building, and intermittently blinding the spectator. The result is almost unviewable. I did not lie down on one of the large beanbags which are scattered over the floor (these are also heat sensitive and leave a mark of the body) where one might view the ceiling and perhaps avoid the blinding light, but I couldn't find another spot to stand that wasn't affecting in this way.
In the rear gallery there is a group of silkscreened 'paintings' depicting map/diagrams of possible scenarios for the invasion and occupation of Iraq (I believe these are from Gulf War I). They have a very cold, clinical, almost sickly purple hue, and certainly depict a mise en scene of the war room that thickens the blood.
Finally in the balcony space above the main gallery are installed a group of 'redacted' (blacked out) documents, emails of an exchange about the benefits of certain torture tactics. Again, these have a singularly chilling and chilly affect.
I am brought to think about the old problem of trying to critique a system using the langauge of that system to do so. In this instance, Holzer's spectacle tends toward a kind of aesthticized politics, the power of which is in its overwelming scale and the subjugation of the viewer.

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