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A Modern Art Case Study: Jenny Holzer

Believe it or not, if you know Teen Eye, you probably also know about Jenny Holzer.

Jenny Holzer is one of the leaders of political contemporary art, specifically word art. Seeing that we, the writers and readers of Teen Eye, devour current political events, then there is a good chance you have seen Jenny Holzer’s work before. Do you recognize these?


These are products of Jenny Holzer’s latest project, “IT IS GUNS: STUDENTS TALK SENSE,” seen at multiple rallies for gun control. The trucks drove around with monochrome messages on student shootings across the United States, from Los Angeles to New York City.

However, Holzer’s most famous work of art is called “Truisms.” It is a series of one-liners meant to start conversation. Unlike “IT IS GUNS”, Holzer’s hundreds of truisms are not nearly as easy to unweave and comprehend. I took it as my personal challenge for the last several weeks to try to interpret four of them, and wow, did it take a long time.


Truism #1: Everyone’s work is equally important.


I don’t really think it’s a question of whether or not everyone’s work is equally important. Except for a few extreme situations (because yes, there is a difference between well intentioned and malicious work) in an idealistic world, everyone’s work would be considered equally important. However, there are sectors of society who equally important but often ignored work. Art is poignant and provocative but extremely underfunded by the government. When it comes to advocacy, where only a few select topics get the attention they deserve, what is the point of working if nobody is going to notice?

Truism #2: Freedom is a luxury not a necessity.

While I have a very strong opinion on this truism, I believe that that view may derive from my nationality. Regardless of one’s political stance, all Americans high value their freedom. It’s an ideal that defines America, both abroad and at home. While I believe that individual freedom is a necessity, it is not obtainable for most of the world. For them, freedom might be a need but because it is hard to get because it is seen as a want.

Truism #3: Humor is a release.

Yes! Humor is a release. I mean, there’s nothing better than having a good laugh.

I think that laughter is really underrated. For me, there’s nothing better than settling down on a Friday night to watch a Netflix comedy special with my friends. When I’m stressed, I tend to turn to comedy to cheer me up. Comedy can serve as a temporary escape into another world, letting you leave your problems behind, even if it is just for a couple hours.

Truism #4: Exceptional people deserve special concessions.

Besides the second truism, this truism gets me especially mixed up. Should exceptional people get special privileges most people do not get? If so, what are those privileges? Should special people be able to get away with certain things that others cannot if it helps them further excel? It goes against the belief that everyone deserves equal treatment, but if some people aren’t equal to others… and that just opens up another Pandora’s box. Are we all equal? Does being different make all of us unequal? How do we determine who is more exceptional than others?


As you can see, Jenny Holzer’s truisms aren’t all necessarily true, but they are meant to be thought provoking in a world where we would much rather turn off our minds. It was a good thought experiment that definitely made look at the world from a different lens. I might have had more questions than answers at the end, but sometimes that’s okay. It’s okay to say “I don’t know.”