The messages are the work of Jenny Holzer, one of a trio of artists featured in the new Wexner Center exhibit “Here,” alongside Ann Hamilton and Maya Lin
News of the messages started circulating on social media late Thursday afternoon, with numerous people posting that the scrolling ticker at the corner of Broad and High streets had been hacked.
“The scroll on a building downtown just said ‘your parents are only your parents by accident’ ‘Killing is unavoidable but is nothing to be proud of,’” Bryan Quinby, host of the Columbus-based Street Fight Radio podcast, wrote on Twitter. Other cryptic messages displayed on the double-decker board included: “It’s man’s fate to outsmart himself” and “Anger or hate can be a useful motivating force.”
Rather than the work of some Mr. Robot-esque, anarchist hacker, the messages are part of a publicity push for “Here,” a new art exhibit opening Saturday, Sept. 21, at the Wexner Center, the language taken from the works of Jenny Holzer, one of a trio of artists with deep Ohio ties featured, the other two being Ann Hamilton and Maya Lin. (Holzer is the only one of the three who has never displayed at the Wex.)
In addition to the scroll, a pair of pieces by Hamilton are set to be blown up to billboard size, with “Sandpiper” being displayed on the north side of Mershon Auditorium on campus, and “Barn Owl” Downtown at 82 N. High St. Also, an LED truck displaying language taken from Holzer’s “Survival” series, culled from firsthand accounts of mass shootings, is scheduled to circle campus and the Short North today, Sept. 20, before settling near the Wex, where the three participating artists will all appear at an in-person talk at 6 p.m.
Wex Senior Curator Michael Goodson first conceived of the exhibit two years ago during a trip to Art Basel in Basel, Switzerland, where he found himself drawn toward a ring of benches created by Holzer and covered in the language of Polish poet Anna Swir, whose writings dealt with the things she experienced in her country during World War II.
“I was taken with these benches, and somehow it occurred to me that Jenny was from Ohio and that our 30th anniversary was coming up, so riding the trams around Basel, Switzerland, I was thinking, ‘Oh, there’s something there,’” Goodson said. “On that trip, I started researching a plethora of other artists from Ohio, and the three that made sense to me were the three that also had careers that more or less fit the 30-year-span of the Wexner Center, so suddenly [‘Here’] was an idea about time and place. And the three artists, of course, were Ann Hamilton, Jenny Holzer and Maya Lin.”A patient, better driver. A safer car, baby smiling in back seat. Sleeping well, no bad dreams. No paranoia. Careful to all animals. Sign up for our daily newsletter
All three produced drastically different pieces for the exhibit. Lin’s “Pin River," which reflects the artist’s long-developing focus on environmental issues, recreates Ohio’s waterways using thousands of glass beads; Holzer, who embraces language as her medium, plastered one gallery with phrases from her “Inflammatory Essays,” including the always-timely “Abuse of power comes as no surprise”; and Hamilton will feature large prints taken from the series “when an object reaches for your hand.” (Hamilton also has a companion exhibit taking place concurrently at the Thompson Library on campus.)
Despite the differing forms, Goodson does see a common thread running through the work produced by the three, which he described as having “an almost elegiac quality.”
“It’s work about remembrance and memorializing, to a degree,” Goodson said. “And recognizing the thing that is felt but not seen. … As it turns out, they all know each other, probably because they are the artists of their generation who helped shape what we think of as contemporary art, in a lot of ways, in terms of the parameters of what an installation can be. … I think that the history of these artists is woven indelibly into the idea of this exhibition.”