Sense

Since the late 1970s, Jenny Holzer has used language and many forms of address to examine society, beliefs, and the spaces in which an individual finds herself. From anonymous street posters to electronic signs, from stone benches to light projections, Holzer's materials suggest a landscape spilling over with connotations, information, propaganda and politics. Her texts—thirteen series written from 1977 to 2001—place the individual in that teeming landscape with language that speaks to the commonality of love, disaster, death, optimism, fear and desire. Sense is a reincarnation of Holzer's earliest series, Truisms (1977-79).

While the texts variously scroll, unfurl and lunge across the screen, a range of voices recites the writing. A child's voice declaims something ageless but not at all pure. A man's voice veers between the mechanized and the declarative. Viewers might lose a sense of truth, sincerity, and originality and question the validity of the statements or they might subscribe.

Holzer wrote the Truisms as a compilation of one-liners to resemble existing maxims or cliches. Each truism distills difficult and contentious ideas into what seems to be a straightforward fact. The Truisms were first shown on anonymous street posters that Holzer pasted throughout downtown Manhattan.

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