Jenny Holzer will Light The Fight in NYC this weekend

The artist is sending five LED-sided trucks out across Manhattan tomorrow to refocus the fight against AIDS
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IT IS GUNS, 2018 © 2018 Jenny Holzer, photo Collin LaFleche
IT IS GUNS, 2018 © 2018 Jenny Holzer, photo Collin LaFleche

'Stop looking at us, start listening to us,' read an ACT UP flyer, distributed in 1988, in response to a MoMA photo exhibition depicting those suffering from AIDS. It was one of many pivotal moments in the artistic fight against the disease.

As our great book Art & Queer Culture points out, "The challenge for queer artists and intellectuals then, (as it still is today really) was to defy the way in which sufferers were framed by someone else’s picture of the illness."

Artist Jenny Holzer has perhaps done more than most on that score in the years since the late Seventies and early Eighties when she worked in a New York restaurant and witnessed two of her co-workers cruelly taken by the disease.

Like all of us who still miss good friends or loved ones, Holzer is "forever sorry" about how many people were lost to the disease. She's also "worried to death" about how many other people are sick and becoming infected.

To that end she is helping reignite the fight against the disease. Tomorrow, Saturday, World AIDS Day, she spearheads a performative intervention called #LightTheFight across Manhattan.

Holzer will send five trucks out through the streets of the city, each with an LED word or message excerpted from quotes by poets, activists and artists conveying the history and ongoing battle against the AIDS epidemic. 

Each truck will stop at a historically significant site such as the LGBT Community Center, Times Square, the Hudson River Piers, and the Whitney Museum in the Meatpacking District.

 

NYC AIDS Memorial - photo Mark Abrahams
NYC AIDS Memorial - photo Mark Abrahams

“It’s crucial to maintain awareness that the AIDS epidemic is alive, in New York and around the world,” Holzer says. “The messages on the trucks’ screens, contributed by feeling people, could comfort those affected by AIDS and reignite fires in bellies to end AIDS forever.”

The evening will mark the launch of the NYC AIDS Memorial Arts and Education Initiative. Founded in 2011 and headed by Phaidon CEO Keith Fox, you probably already know that The NYC AIDS Memorial unveiled a permanent memorial in 2016 close to the original site of St. Vincent’s Hospital, which housed New York’s first AIDS ward. If not, you can read more about it here.

We asked Holzer a few questions ahead of  tomorrow’s #LightTheFight ceremony and performance at the NYC AIDS Memorial Park on the corner of West 12th and Greenwich Ave in Manhattan. 

 

NYC AIDS Memorial - photo Mark Abrahams
NYC AIDS Memorial - photo Mark Abrahams

What in particular attracted you to the idea of mobile memorials? I loved working with Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” at the memorial (courtesy of Henri Cole’s recommendation) and think that an-everywhere-you-need-it tech memorial is the right complement to Whitman writ in stone.

After collecting content for Light the Fight, I’m even more certain we can offer wonderful writing to anyone with a phone or tablet who wants to remember, learn, cry, think, smile, protect. Our truck team researched and programmed lovely, furious, multivalent poems and prose by many in the community, and from afar, and we’ll offer facts galore on the trucks’ signs.

Your launch statement in the New York Times “We will have tenderness as well as grief,” is incredibly powerful. Why word it that way? AIDS has had too many mourn, but the illness has elicited tenderness, and every sort of caring from numberless people. I thought it accurate and proper to note and represent this gentleness. 

 

Jenny Holzer condoms will be given out on the night
Jenny Holzer condoms will be given out on the night

What do you consider important when reigniting the fight for a generation who may perceive AIDS to be ‘an 80s thing’? AIDS is this very instant thing. People should be safe and well, and savvy. It is sad, and largely unnecessary to repeat much from the ‘80s. Urgency and awareness are keywords now. Support, kindness and prevention must flow to people who are not getting that. I don’t forget AIDS in the ‘80s. I think about AIDS in New York now and AIDS in the world. People needed - and still require - help and recognition and safety. The trucks flash the need.

It’s been a year now since the unveiling of your 'You have given me love artwork'. What responses have touched you most?  I am moved and reassured when people chalk messages on Whitman’s Song.

And where will we see you on the night? How could I pass on the chance to feed and follow five lit trucks parading through the big city? I won’t miss the Light the Fight night. 

 

Portrait of Jenny Holzer by Nanda Lanfranco
Portrait of Jenny Holzer by Nanda Lanfranco
 

Join Jenny and thousands more tomorrow, December 1st. #LightTheFight will begin at 4:30 with an opening ceremony and performance at the NYC AIDS Memorial Park on the corner of West 12th and Greenwich Ave in Manhattan. Check back next week for coverage of the evening.

 

Your invitation to Light The Fight


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