Under erasure: Jenny Holzer's war paintings

Bird, Jon (2017) Under erasure: Jenny Holzer's war paintings. Journal of Contemporary Painting, 3 (1-2) . pp. 177-193. ISSN 2052-6695 [Article] (doi:10.1386/jcp.3.1-2.177_1)

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This article examines Jenny Holzer’s painterly reworkings of redacted American military documents, comparing her practice with some of Nancy Spero’s extended visual narratives of torture and victimization. As two artists immersed in a feminist visual politics (and poetics) of representation where language is both a vehicle and a form of expression, they adopt contrasting strategies of transformation: for Spero via allegory and the mythic, for Holzer through an aesthetic of negation. I read their work partly through Jacques Rancière’s notion of the necessity for bringing traumatic events into visibility, and I argue that in their respective scripto-visual artworks and sensitivity to the materiality of language and its performative dimension, they ‘make the inhuman perceptible’. I also consider their practice as evidence of an ongoing project of foregrounding arts responsibility as witness to history and the historical subject, seeing in their respective modes of figuration and emphasis upon surface (presence/absence, colour, writing) a means of inscribing the body in the text.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design
Item ID: 27300
Notes on copyright: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Intellect in the Journal of Contemporary Painting, available online: https://doi.org/10.1386/jcp.3.1-2.177_1
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Depositing User: Jon Bird
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2019 15:14
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2021 13:21
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/27300

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