Holzer Meets AI

Installation view of Jenny Holzer Ready For You When You Are . Source Hauser and Wirth

Since the 1970s, Jenny Holzer has harnessed language as her artistic medium, utilizing poetic, political, and personal texts to engage with our encounters of power, violence, delight, despair, and idealism.

The American conceptual artist unveiled recent paintings and robotic LEDs at the Hauser & Wirth gallery in West Hollywood. This event marks her notable return to Los Angeles and her inaugural incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies within her text-centered practice. Among the works displayed in the exhibition, Holzer presents two robotic vertical LEDs installed adjacently, both exhibiting texts generated by AI. Her ventures into AI pose novel questions regarding authorship due to the regenerative nature of new technology.

“GOOD” (2023), AI was instructed to depict euphoric experiences spanning human, nonhuman, physical, and immaterial realms. The ensuing responses comprise poetic depictions of emotional sensations, natural phenomena, machine sounds, and even extraterrestrial encounters. These texts, rendered in pastel hues, ascend along the four sides of the artwork.

“BAD” (2023) features extremist political content fed into the generator, which subsequently composes concise statements and cryptic poems reminiscent of the far right and alt-right ideologies. These passages, pulsating in shades of gray and bursts of red, animate the LED in choreographed robotic movements, forming a comprehensive sensory portrayal of intricate parallel experiences, both human and artificial, ranging from joyful to chaotic.

“WTF” (2022) is a swinging LED beam showcasing tweets from Donald Trump’s presidency and posts by Q, the enigmatic QAnon figurehead. It moves unpredictably along a track, reflecting the erratic rhythm of these messages’ initial online appearances. The flashing and scrolling texts illuminate nearly 300 ‘curse tablets’ on the floor, which are inspired by ancient curse tablets and bear Trump’s tweets. These tablets are created by imprinting tweets onto cast metal and aging them through folding, crumpling, piercing, and chemical treatments.

The gallery walls feature Holzer’s latest Redaction Paintings, inspired by declassified government documents. Holzer painstakingly transcribes these documents onto linen and enhances them with layers of oil paint and metal leaf, referencing FBI records, Trump-era briefs, and a 2021 AI report. These artworks delve into contemporary political turmoil, exploring real and perceived threats to democracy through textured surfaces.

Featured Image: Installation view of Jenny Holzer, Ready For You When You Are . Source Hauser and Wirth


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