Blog / Time Capsule: Jenny Holzer


By Rachel Goodwin

This article is part of a series looking at specific works of art from Time Capsule. View other entires here.


Truism: A claim that is so obvious or self-evident as to be hardly worth mentioning, except as a reminder or as a rhetorical or literary device and is the opposite of falsism. In philosophy, a sentence which asserts incomplete truth conditions for a proposition may be regarded as a truism. An example of such a sentence would be: “Under appropriate conditions, the sun rises.” Without contextual support – a statement of what those appropriate conditions are – the sentence is true but incontestable. A statement which is true by definition (“All cats are mammals.”) would also be considered a truism. This is quite similar to a tautology in which the conclusion of a statement is essentially equivalent to its premise, a statement that is “true by virtue of its logical form alone.”

American conceptual artist Jenny Holzer’s truisms are etched into stone. Considered philosophically, Holzer’s truisms could actually be false statements made true simply by virtue of their construction. Not just their grammatical construction, but also their physical construction – being etched in stone. Anything written in stone is the law, is the way things are and will remain as such forever…right? How we do something is just as important as what we do. The medium is the message. Holzer, in this work of art, asks are these statements true just because they are written in stone, but offers no answer in return. This keeps me with the work even when I am away from it.

Holzer questions authority and the construction of power. Are these statements true just because she says they are? Are these statements true just because of their logical form? Are these statements true just because they are etched in a marble bench?

Holzer questions you personally. Do you believe these statements are true, are they true to you?

Holzer questions you empirically. Are these statements true, in general?

Holzer questions you physically. Would you sit down on these statements? Would that be respectful?

Holzer sits or puts these powerful statements down into the bench physically so that we can question
them philosophically – and thus deconstruct their power.


Truism definition via wikipedia.
IMAGE: Jenny Holzer Truisms footstool 1988. Baltic brown granite, Ed. 27/40. 15 x 23 x 15 3/4 in. (38.1 x 58.4 x 40 cm). Rubell Family Collection, Miami.

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