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The idea for Korova Truth axioms appealed to me many years ago when I was first exposed to the work of
Jenny Holzer*.Holzer is an abstract painter who turned to language to paint ideas; her public display projects include Truisms and Lustmord. Her one-line works have appeared on posters, t-shirts, park benches, large-scale public spaces, and even commercial television. Lately, she's taken her unique vision to a Web site that invites public interaction: Please Change Beliefs.
The marvelous thing about her oeuvre is that it subverts and electrifies the media in which she appears. Her "truisms" sound like just the sort of thing that an ad agency hack would concoct:
- The good things in life stay that way.
- A diamond is forever.
- It's the real thing.
- What is remembered is up to you.
- Men are from earth. Women are from earth. End of story.
- Just do it.
Thus have the predictions of Marshall McLuhan exploded across our media/culture landscape. But Holzer turns "The Medium Is The Message" back upon itself. Her anonymous, contrived "belief bites" appear, spread and gain folkloric resonance, just as the thought viruses about "Good Times" e-mail, choking dobermans, LSD tattoos and headlight-blinking gang initiations circulate through our collective, society-mind.
- Absolute submission can be a form of freedom.
- Confusing yourself is a way to stay honest.
- Expiring for love is beautiful but stupid.
- Indifference is a powerful personal weapon.
- You are a victim of the rules you live by.
- Deviants are sacrificed to increase group solidarity.
- Slipping into madness is good for the sake of comparison.
- Taking a strong stand publicizes the opposite position.
- The most profound things are inexpressible.
Truisms © Copyrighted by Jenny Holzer. I think.
If this sounds a lot like some of U2's Achtung Baby-era work, it's probably no accident. The character in
"The Fly"** talks in a prejudiced "truism" voice, cynical and confrontational. (In an interview, guitarist The Edge likened the song to the sound of "four men chopping down The JoshuaTree.") In their ZooTV*** performances, U2 had words, phrases and Holzer- derivative truisms flashed rapidly on large-screen video monitors (how fast? about 150 milliseconds each).
Holzer's truisms call into question the nature of the context in which they appear. Who wrote this? Why is it appearing here? What's it for? Should I accept it or question it? Is it copyrighted, or in the public domain? No less potent is the commentary that her work makes on our society ... with our unwitting, public interaction. Witness the development of Holzer merchandise, featuring her Truisms on tee shirts, hats, et al. It sells. Really. Think about it: people buy these, and wear them, and in the process accept and further promulgate her contrived beliefs ... once again, commenting on the cultural phenomenon of infectious thoughts that spread throughout our society with little or no control.
I really love the photos that people take of her projects. Possibly the finest, documented appearance of a Holzer Truism was the projection of
appearing on the giant Times Square Spectacolor display in New York City, surrounded by the insane, fibrillating advertising signs and neon logos that make the landmark unmistakable. Her art morphed the character and perception of the entire scene. That's how she works ... Holzer jump-starts your perception of a culture growing addicted to fast food-style, cut-and-paste morality.
I can never hope to reach the kind of perceptive, ballistic intensity of Jenny's best missives,... but I'm trying. I'm trying. Welcome to Korova Truth: e-mail and Web-based truisms engineered to counteract the effects of e-j-mail, e-v-mail, and Web noise.
What is Korova Truth? Disposable ASCII for a better tomorrow.
D.B. Spalding, November 1996. Minor revisions: 13 September 1997
* More information about Jenny Holzer
- WIRED interview, February 1994
- WIRED review of Jenny Holzer art book
- Please Change Beliefs project (highly recommended!)
(Please write me (truth (at) korova.com) if any of these links have died or moved. Thanks!)
** U2, "The Fly"
It's no secret that a conscience can sometimes be a pest
It's no secret ambition bites the nails of success
Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief
All kill their inspiration and sing about the grief
Music by U2, Words by Bono. © Copyright 1991 U2, Admin. by Chappell & Co. (ASCAP) All rights reserved.
*** Some of the ZooTV truisms (extracted from a freeware screensaver, not all are confirmed as coming from the ZooTV tours)
I want it now
mock it or milk it
we are all part of the malaise
panic is attitude
superficiality is god
deines mondo tu puio cambiarlo e' il tuo
taste is the enemy of art
contradiction is balance
die ist eine utopie zunkruft
Death is a career move
religion is a club
WATCH MORE TV
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© Copyright 1996 D.B. Spalding/Korova Multimedia. All rights reserved.