I Am A Man
Jenny Holzer ( American, 1950 )
Jenny Holzer rose to international prominence as a socially and politically oriented artist in the 1980s. With her populist posters, T-shirts, plaques, and signature LED electronic display signboards, Holzer has engaged, provoked, and challenged audiences that reach well beyond the walls of the museum or gallery. From her earliest series, Truisms (1977-79) - posters of forty to sixty aphorisms arranged alphabetically and posted around SoHo, New York, Jenny Holzer has used words as images and language as a medium. Her messages - deadpan aphorisms to dark meditations about the human condition - are presented in an authoritative, anonymous, often nongendered voice. In this way, she brings our most private thoughts on sex, life, death, identity, and disaster into the public realm.
I Am a Man was part of Holzer's installation in the 1987 Documenta VIII exhibition in Kassel, Germany. Like all her LED signboards, it is clear, direct, and accessible. It combines the familiar and unfamiliar, the expected and the unexpected - a commercial medium that announces, advertises and entertains in urban streets and sports arenas has a serious message: "I AM A MAN. I ENTER SPACE BECAUSE IT EMPTIES ME. I CHASE PEOPLE AROUND THE HOUSE...I WILL KILL YOU FOR WHAT YOU MIGHT DO." The words move upward; their color, rhythm, and speed change, embodying the power of the surrounding technological landscape to manipulate and alter consciousness.
Suzanne Weaver, "Jenny Holzer, I Am a Man," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art, 1997), 299.
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