Jenny Holzer »End of the USA (Inflammatory Essay)«, 1982




In her early years as an artist, Jenny Holzer began working with text as a tool to manipulate the language of pop culture while producing political commentary. Her work usually consisted of aggressive statements meant to propel the passive viewer into an act of questioning.

Her “Inflammatory Essays”, a series of 15 (more?) posters the artist produced between 1979 and 1982, were pasted on walls throughout heavily populated areas of New York City. The anonymous statements were influenced by major political figures such as Emma Goldman, Mao Tse-Tung, and Vladimir Lenin and, although they show eye-catching colors, they shared quite provocative thoughts.

In a statement provided by the Holzer studio, the Inflammatory Essays are described as “a collection of 100-word texts that were printed on colored paper and posted throughout New York City. Like any manifesto, the voice in each essay urges and espouses a strong and particular ideology. By masking the author of the essays, Holzer allows the viewer to assess ideologies divorced from the personalities that propel them. With this series, Holzer invites the reader to consider the urgent necessity of social change, the possibility for manipulation of the public, and the conditions that attend revolution.”

Text and image from SOCKS