Abstraction is a type of decadence
A few years ago, I was visiting the apartment of a dear friend and I saw this photo on his wall:
I was so thrilled by the photo that my friend made me a knockoff of the shirt, which was originally created in the 1980s by the artist Jenny Holzer. Then I got so excited about my knockoff shirt that my friend made me another shirt. The new shirt features two more Holzer slogans:
ABSTRACTION IS A TYPE OF DECADENCE (front)
ELABORATION IS A FORM OF POLLUTION (back)
I love these shirts, and I often have interesting conversations with passerby when I wear them. Sometimes, at art events, people recognize the Holzer reference, and we enthuse together.
Jenny Holzer may be best known for her list of Truisms. These have not merely appeared on t-shirts, but have been projected on huge public walls and posted on billboards.
I certainly don’t agree with all the Truisms — and I suspect that Holzer doesn’t either — but they’re really fun to read. Part of the maxims’ awesomeness is their uncompromising directness. Here are a few more that I like to think about:
GUILT AND SELF-LACERATION ARE INDULGENCES
SELF-AWARENESS CAN BE CRIPPLING
SYMBOLS ARE MORE MEANINGFUL THAN THINGS THEMSELVES
TECHNOLOGY WILL MAKE OR BREAK US
Addendum: If you are really in love with Holzer’s work, then I also recommend the Twitter feed Jenny Holzer, Mom. It’s a mashup of Holzer-style maxims + the sensibility of a Midwestern mom. Examples:
GENDER IS A INVENTED CONCEPT FOR DIVISION BUT YOU STILL CAN’T HAVE A BOY-GIRL SLEEPOVER PARTY
A LITTLE BIT OF BRAINWASHING COULD BE WORTH IT IF IT GETS YOU INTO A GOOD COLLEGE
IT IS POSSIBLE YOU WERE LIED TO WHEN YOU WERE TOLD YOU’D UNDERSTAND WHEN YOU GOT OLDER