For over forty years, conceptual artist Jenny Holzer has used public space as an outlet for expression. The American text artist is perhaps best known for her trailblazing work that sees her projecting or pasting up words that deal with important social issues such as violence, feminism, oppression, and power. Her most recent installation saw her tackling the pressing issue of gun violence in America with enormous light projections in New York City.
Over the course of two nights, the words of those affected by gun violence were emblazoned across two buildings at Rockefeller Center. VIGIL served as a memorial and a reminder of the psychological effects of the all-too-frequent shootings occurring in the United States. According to the Brady Campaign, 310 people are shot daily in America—21 of those are children and teens. These startling numbers make Holzer’s work, which was presented by New York arts non-profit Creative Time, all the more urgent.
“Jenny Holzer has been an innovator in the field of public art,” said Creative Time Executive Director Justine Ludwig. “It is an honor to work with her to realize this project, addressing one of the most pressing issues we have today as a nation. Her work amplifies the words of those directly affected and brings personal perspective to staggering statistics.”
As the words scrolled by, the power of Holzer’s minimalist work became apparent. By using her art as a vehicle for change, Holzer allows citizens to have a voice on a platform that would otherwise be impossible. The artist selected texts from Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence, stories from Moments that Survive, collected by Everytown for Gun Safety, and poems by teens growing up in a nation affected by shootings in their communities and schools.
In these words, it’s easy to sense fear, anger, and—sadly—apathy. As gun violence becomes increasingly commonplace, VIGIL is a wake-up call that we cannot be complacent in the fight for safety.