Protect Me From What I Want


Quite high up on Balans Soho Society’s ‘list of ‘things that need to stop’ you would find the inspirational quote. You know the sort of eye-rolling thing – ‘All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them’ or ‘It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop’. The only thing that makes our collective teeth stand on edge, even more, is if one of these meaningless word salads somehow ends up embroidered on a cushion or written in a flowing script underneath a picture of a puppy. None of it is good.

Jenny Holzer is an American neo-conceptual artist whose main focus is the delivery of words and ideas in public spaces. For decades she has used such quotes and aphorisms to explore both the power and the powerlessness of language. Just as the motivational quote is presented as a way of guiding one through life, her work feels like you’re being presented with advice except that the ideas and statements soon become contradictory, one cancelling out another, leaving the viewer literally wondering what – if anything – it all means. Her work examines the information overload that we all have to navigate and the different perspectives with which we are constantly being bombarded. Astounding and lyrical, her art – especially in this era of  ‘fake news’ – invites us to be able to read and interpret everything for ourselves.

TATE MODERN – Bankside, London SE1 9TG

Until 7 July 2019


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