Jenny Holzer's signature LED statements scroll past in an instant, commanding the reader's attention lest the moment be lost. These flickering screens are deeply meaningful experiments in time-based media, animating text long before the past decade's explosion of software packages made screen movement seem inevitable. They are also environmental media, specific to the places they inhabit; we might understand them as early investigations into ubiquitous computing, particularly given the labor-intensive programming required to realize any single LED work. Jenny Holzer at the Neue Nationalgalerie explores these and other meanings of Holzer's work via a multi-perspectival documentation of a specific exhibition at a precise moment in space and time.
Combining video, animation, scholarly essays, photographs, and a wealth of other information, the project at one level functions as a multimedia catalog or database, deploying many forms of media to 'preserve' the inherently ephemeral experience of the art exhibition. This kind of 'thick description' allows multiple points of entry into both the Neue Nationalgalerie exhibit and into Holzer's work more generally.
But Jenny Holzer at the Neue Nationalgalerie does more than simply present evidence that this exhibition did indeed happen. Like all of the projects in this first issue of Vectors, it also implies an argument about the relationship between evidence and interface. In selecting what perspectives and artifacts would be included and in deciding how to structure access to these elements, the project privileges modes of presentation in dialogue with contemporary scholarship in performance studies, art history, and cultural studies. In detailing the sustained and collaborative labor involved in the construction of Holzer's LEDs, the piece reminds us of the often-invisible work that underlies our experiences of media and of art, something much less obvious to the visitors immersed in the dreamy modernists spaces of the original installation. In that regard, it shares with The Stolen Time Archive a precise goal: the desire to always remember the material in our engagements with the ephemeral.
-- Tara McPherson and Steve Anderson