Jenny Holzer Explores the Complexities of War at England’s Blenheim Palace

Works exploring war and power create a striking tension within the palace's Baroque architecture.

Jenny Holzer, For Blenheim (2017). Installation view at Blenheim Palace. Text provided by The Not Forgotten Association. Used with permission. ©2017 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo Samuel Keyte.
Jenny Holzer, For Blenheim (2017). Installation view at Blenheim Palace. Text provided by The Not Forgotten Association. Used with permission. ©2017 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo Samuel Keyte.

A new solo exhibition by the American artist Jenny Holzer is opening to the public today at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock, Oxfordshire. Titled “SOFTER,” the exhibition is anything but: gathering over a dozen works—some new and site-specific—the show favors a strategy of confrontation, in typical Holzer style.

The works on view explore questions of power, conflict, and the aftermath of war, while addressing the military and political history of the 18th-century Palace. In this vein, Holzer’s paintings of U.S. government documents related to conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are displayed within the Palace’s Baroque interiors, making for a powerful juxtaposition.

Holzer has also responded to the surrounding architecture, creating a new series of limestone and marble benches engraved with poetry by Polish poet Anna Świrszczyńska, whose works explore her experiences during World War II, motherhood, and the female body. In the Palace’s gardens, meanwhile, Holzer intervened with the landscaping by adding a series of works titled Black Pots.

But perhaps the most striking element of the show is the series of large-scale light projections that will illuminate the Palace’s façade after dark from today until October 10. The projected texts contain testimonies contributed by UK veterans and people affected by the Syrian civil war, among others.

Holzer, who is the first woman to exhibit at the grand venue—after Ai Weiwei, Lawrence Weiner, and Michelangelo Pistoletto—said in a statement: “My first visit to Blenheim Palace left me with too many ideas, on the complex past and its relevance to this knife-edge present. Now I need to see if the ideas are any good.”

See images from the exhibition below:

Jenny Holzer, Attention grasp (2017). Text: U.S. government document. SOFTER: Jenny Holzer at Blenheim Palace, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, UK, 2017 ©2017 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo Edd Horder.

Jenny Holzer, Attention grasp (2017). Text: U.S. government document. “SOFTER: Jenny Holzer at Blenheim Palace,” Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, UK, 2017 ©2017 Jenny Holzer, Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo Edd Horder.

Jenny Holzer, X CONCLUSION and After my transfer (both works 2014). Text: U.S. government documents. “SOFTER: Jenny Holzer at Blenheim Palace,” Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, UK, 2017. ©2017 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY Photo Edd Horder.

Jenny Holzer, X CONCLUSION and After my transfer (both works 2014). Text: U.S. government documents. “SOFTER: Jenny Holzer at Blenheim Palace,” Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, UK, 2017. ©2017 Jenny Holzer, Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY Photo Edd Horder.

Jenny Holzer, Still Life (2017). Text: "Still Life," from Building The Barricade by Anna Świrszczyńska, translated by Piotr Florczyk. Translation copyright © 2016. Published by Tavern Books. Used by permission of Ludmila Adamska-Orłowska and the translator. “SOFTER: Jenny Holzer at Blenheim Palace,” Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, UK, 2017. ©2017 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY Photo Edd Horder.

Jenny Holzer, Still Life (2017). Text: “Still Life,” from Building The Barricade by Anna Świrszczyńska, translated by Piotr Florczyk. Translation copyright ©2016. Published by Tavern Books. Used by permission of Ludmila Adamska-Orłowska and the translator. “SOFTER: Jenny Holzer at Blenheim Palace,” Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, UK, 2017. ©2017 Jenny Holzer, Artists Rights Society, NY Photo Edd Horder.

Jenny Holzer, Small Left Hand 0147-03 blue white (2009). Text: U.S. government document. “SOFTER: Jenny Holzer at Blenheim Palace, Blenheim Palace,” Woodstock, UK, 2017 © 2017 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo Edd Horder.

Jenny Holzer, Small Left Hand 0147-03 blue white (2009). Text: U.S. government document. “SOFTER: Jenny Holzer at Blenheim Palace, Blenheim Palace,” Woodstock, UK, 2017 ©2017 Jenny Holzer, Artists Rights Society, NY. Photo Edd Horder.

Jenny Holzer, Black Pots (2017). “SOFTER: Jenny Holzer at Blenheim Palace, Blenheim Palace,” Woodstock, UK, 2017 ©2017 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo Edd Horder.

Jenny Holzer, Black Pots (2017). “SOFTER: Jenny Holzer at Blenheim Palace, Blenheim Palace,” Woodstock, UK, 2017 ©2017 Jenny Holzer, Artists Rights Society, NY. Photo Edd Horder.

Jenny Holzer, ON WAR (2017). Installation view at Blenheim Palace. Text provided by The Not Forgotten Association. Used with permission. ©2017 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo Samuel Keyte.

Jenny Holzer, ON WAR (2017). Text: “A Scream From Underground,” from Building The Barricade by Anna Świrszczyńska, translated by Piotr Florczyk. Translation copyright © 2016. Published by Tavern Books. Used by permission of Ludmila Adamska-Orłowska and the translator. ©2017 Jenny Holzer, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo Samuel Keyte.

Jenny Holzer’s “SOFTER” is on view at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, from September 28 to December 31.


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