From WickedHalo's ever-wickedly-wonderful site, Your Source for all Things Wicked and Wonderful, I was turned on to the projection work (you might say I was illuminated. ha!) of Jenny Holzer.
Pretty cool. The photos look great too, check 'em all out at the link above.
But did you think of the same thing I thought?
Yes, you did:
Looks just like the un-brainwashed view in John Carpenter's landmark film, They Live. From the cheerily bright, yet polarized black-and-white urbanities, to the all powerful, eye-capturing images translated in broadcast of lock-step, san-serif font.
Even though Holzer's messages take a opposite goal as their message, a loosely humanist, liberal questioning of the state and power structures, as opposed to the architypical message of CAPITALISM and POWER, there is a strange similarity between them.
That is, besides the fact that they are in all caps. I take any writing in all caps with a harsh bit of suspicion. What are you trying to cover over, in lieu of the nuance of the lower-case? Why is it so important that I HEAR YOU OVER THE DIN OF DISTRACTION, when your words are already many feet tall, plus illuminated in my vision? What does the hegemonic indifference of a message with all letters of equal-size mean, in terms of communication? Is it rigorousness of symbol to never descend below the baseline, and to have a set cutoff for ascent? Or is a uniform: molding the text into a replaceable, expendable unit of an army, shot off its background like bullets aimed for my eyes and mind, with rapid-fire precision of concussion not pausing to aim, but instead spraying its readership with equal bursts of fire like prisoners before the ditch of their soon to be unmarked grave?
Okay--anti-fascism off--but my point stands: troops don't just march to give them something to do.
Not that I think petty bourgeois liberalism is akin to fascism, (oh wait, I do think that) but I wonder about Jenny Holzer's messages. They themselves are not particularly bourgeois, probably lending themselves more towards the realm of easily-commodifiable bohemian/individually introspective, i.e. generally soul-searching (that IS a class/genre, as of now).
I suppose my point is, what could you really say, projected onto the surface of a building? Something referential to the building? To the city? To art? To language, meaning, and reading in general? Sure, billboards are a waste of good reading time, but given a few phrases to write in massive, publicly viewable letters, could you really say anything worth saying? Are there any phrases, quotes, or epigrams that are not trite, hackneyed, or at least, inconclusive?
I suppose this is why I often have touble with poetry--I just can't get anything out I feel is worth saying without stretching into long, prosey aphorisms. Haiku is a particular peeve of mine; in English, at any rate (I can't read Japanese) they are the literary equivalent of an attractive bookmark. The wind, the snow, the trees--whatever! I can see the damn trees too! Say something interesting about them, or shut up and let me look at them! Metaphor is useless without context. I might as well flick picture postcards at your eyeballs.
So yes, there is the good old "meta" value, like the go-for-broke prize on a Kino board. (if you've never played Kino, you win if, like in a regular pick lottery, you hit a certain number, say four or more, of your ten picked numbers out of 1 through 60. But if you manage to get not a single hit, there is also a small prize.) Yes, Holzer's work has made me question the validity of large-text on buildings, etc.
But has it really done this? Or was I questioning this everytime I saw a beer logo and a pair of triple story boobs while I'm driving on the highway? Is this actually a new text, making me think? Or is it just a continuation of the mind pollution, more words I am forced to read by fact of my stubbornly literate brain, and the idiotic tendency for humans to continue painting these symbols on every damn surface around? Or is the giant shaped black-and-white constrast merely more phenomenal noise?
Imagine if every building, every surface, and every texture was inscribed with text. If there was no where to look that was not symbol, either the positive meaning of it, or the blank spots in the kerning. They say there is going to be an Internet of things, in which all devices and objects will be transmitting messages to each other, free in the air for anyone to hear, as my houseplant taunts my goldfish, and my coffee maker flirts with my electric tooth brush. Do I really want this? My refridgerator beeps when the door is open for more than 45 seconds, interfacing with my head against my will letting me know what a crappy commodity Internet my life is slowly becoming, by the mere fact of trying to keep my beer cold. I need more cast iron tools--dumb, idiot appliances, which I can easily melt back into a solid blob of their equivocal silence when I no longer have use for them. I want my car to shut up and drive. I wish the architecture around me would simply keep out the rain, and stop trying to "mean" things. I will be a little less nerotic when all the art is calmly hanging on walls again, where I can feel free to grab it, throw it across the room, and let it smash back into garbage if I need it to be. Because right now the art IS the wall, or worse, merely projected onto it, so when the wall collapses, the art continues to shine into space, or more likely, right into my eyes.
Predictions for 2012
5 years ago