NYC art project uses poems, classified documents

Published: Saturday, October 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, September 30, 2005 at 10:42 p.m.
Poems and declassified documents will scroll across landmark city buildings over the next 10 nights in a public art project by Jenny Holzer, whose provocative use of words as art is in part a response to the 2001 terrorist attacks.
''For the City'' began Thursday with selections from international poets projected onto three buildings in Rockefeller Center. White words in block letters rose upward on darkened walls.
Following the Rockefeller Center installation, which runs through Oct. 2, government documents released under the Freedom of Information Act will be projected onto the Bobst Library at New York University Oct. 3 through 5, and poems will illuminate the New York Public Library Oct. 6 through 9.
Many of the declassified documents relate to treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo and in Afghanistan, Holzer said.
''For a couple of years, I've been looking at these as a way of educating myself about American foreign policy or about conditions in the various camps where detainees are held,'' she said. ''I find the documents to be especially immediate because they're written by people in the thick of things.''
Poems by Wislawa Szymborska, Yehuda Amichai and others also deal with the state of the world.
''Sorrow everywhere,'' begins ''A Brief for the Defense'' by the American Jack Gilbert. ''Slaughter everywhere. If babies are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else.''
Holzer said the new work is in part a response to the events of 9/11.
''I wasn't able to find an answer about how to memorialize 9/11 or what to say next, so I went to these wonderful poets who are much more articulate and concise than I and found things that I thought might be of interest to the people of New York,'' she said.
Holzer, 55, has used light projections in previous works in New York as well as in Brazil, France, Germany and elsewhere.

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