MAINLINING POSTMODERNISM:

JENNY HOLZER, BARBARA KRUGER, AND THE ART OF INTERVENTION 

by 

WALTER KALAIDJIAN 

Dept. of English 

St. Cloud State University 

<wkalaidj@TIGGER.STCLOUD.MSUS.EDU> 

_Postmodern Culture_ v.2 n.3 (May, 1992) 

Copyright (c) 1992 by Walter Kalaidjian, all rights reserved. This text may be freely shared among individuals, but it may not be republished in any medium without express written consent from the author and advance notification of the editors. 

[1] Midway through the Reagan era, the crossing of the Great Depression's communal aesthetics and the contemporary avant-gardes was theorized from the conservative right as a stigma of neo-Stalinism. In "Turning Back the Clock: Art and Politics in 1984," Hilton Kramer, the ideologue of painterly formalism, sought to discredit a number of gallery exhibitions mounted in resistance to the rapid gentrification of the New York art market. Not coincidentally, these oppositional shows culminated in a year charged with the political subtext of George Orwell's _1984_. Reviving Orwell's critique of the totalitarian state, the New Museum of Contemporary Art launched two exhibitions entitled "The End of the World: Contemporary Visions of Apocalypse" and "Art and Ideology." Meanwhile, the Edith C. Blum Art Institute of Bard College hosted a similar show whose theme, "Art as Social Conscience," reinforced the New Museum initiatives. In addition to showings on the themes of "Women and Politics" at the Intar Latin American Gallery and "Dreams and Nightmares: Utopian Visions in Modern Art" at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., both the Graduate Center of the City of University of New York and a network of private galleries affiliated with "Artists Call Against US Intervention in Central America" featured works that reflected on American imperialism in the Third World. 

[2] Reacting against these progressive showings, Kramer appealed to ideal canons of aesthetic "quality" in order to malign the politicized representations of "Artists Call." Kramer's thesis held that art had somehow evolved, in the Age of Reagan, beyond ideology: that any explicit political allusion marked a work as a throwback to a now outdated cultural moment. But not satisfied with simply dismissing these shows as a mere recycling of some harmless and nostalgic version of 1960s leftism, Kramer tried to revive a more menacing specter that had expired three decades earlier with the scandal of McCarthyism, Red-Baiting, and Cold War paranoia that reigned over the 1950s. Tying the emergent socioaesthetic critique of the 1980s to the "radicalism" of the 1930s, Kramer anathematized "social consciousness" as serving a "Stalinist ethos."^1^ Through this historical framing, Kramer sought to reinstate the repression of Depression era populism during the 1940s and 1950s: a period which, in his reading, "marked a great turning point not only in the history of American art but in the life of the American imagination" (72). 

[3] Like his formalist mentor Clement Greenberg, Kramer sought to displace partisan art works under the guise of disciplinary purity: that as Greenberg claimed "the essence of Modernism lies, as I see it, in the use of the characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself--not in order to subvert it, but to entrench it more firmly in its area of competence."^2^ Tellingly, in Kramer's heavy-handed, ad hominem assaults on such critics and curators as Benjamin H. D. Buchloch and Donald Kuspit, the campaign for a "neutral zone" of artistic purity--wrapped as it is in the neo-Kantian mantle of disinterested aesthetic judgment--proved a reactionary ideological program: one that, in the name of intrinsic formalism, aimed to repress social representation %tout court%. Lodged against the postmodern recovery of interbellum populism, Kramer's appeal to the seemingly "apolitical" zone of modernist experimentation--to an ideal canon of formal innovation--"turned back the clock" to the eve of the Cold War: rehearsing, in a reductive version, Clement Greenberg's 1939 campaign for aesthetic autonomy as a counter to American kitsch culture and Soviet socialist realism.^3^ 

[4] The contempt with which Greenberg greeted popular culture and its mass audience reflected symptomatically his historical situation--which, in 1939, he anxiously viewed as imperiled by the triple threat of Nazism, Stalinism, and Americanism. The epochal shifts in technological reproduction, and collective systems of design, packaging, and distribution that now delivered art to the masses--that made every reader a virtual writer, every viewer a potential auteur, and every audiophile a nascent composer--threatened, in Greenberg's reading, all semblance of hierarchy, distinction, and taste without which it was impossible to salvage canonicity. Moreover he regarded the democratization of cultural expression as a volatile formula for social unrest: "Everyman, from the Tammany alderman to the Austrian house-painter," Greenberg warned, "finds that he is entitled to his opinion. . . . Here revolvers and torches begin to be mentioned in the same breath as culture. In the name of godliness or the blood's health, in the name of simple ways and solid virtues, the statue-smashing commences."^4^ 

[5] Not coincidentally, Walter Benjamin had theorized the same symptoms of mass participation in the shaping of cultural modernism. Unlike Greenberg, however, Benjamin articulated them to new aesthetic tendencies that--divorced from the cult of individual genius, the canon, disciplinary autonomy, aesthetic purity, and so on--nevertheless did not reduce cultural production to the vulgar display of monumental socialist realism, fascist agitprop, or kitsch consumerism.^5^ While Greenberg eschewed the spectacle of mass communication, Benjamin proposed a materialist intervention into consumer culture by reversing art's traditional social function, which "instead of being based on ritual . . . begins to be based on another practice-- politics" (WMP, 224). Against fascism's "introduction of aesthetics into political life" (241)--its auraticization of politics, nationalism, and mass spectacle--he campaigned for a counter-strategy of "politicizing art" as critique. Revolutionary art must not only pursue progressive tendencies in form and content, Benjamin insisted, but should effect what Brecht theorized as a broader "functional transformation" (%Umfunktionierung%) of the institutional limits, sites, and modes of production that shape cultural practices in the expanded social field.^6^ 

[6] Benjamin's intervention in the reception of the avant- gardes, while surpassing the cloistral elitism of Greenberg's retreat from popular culture, nevertheless comes up against its own historical limits, particularly so in its allegiance to the classist and productivist ideologies of the 1930s. Benjamin's proletcult credo--that "the author as producer discovers . . . his solidarity with the proletariat" (AP, 230)--is marked by the %coupure% severing the modern from postmodern epochs. The myth of an imminent proletarian revolution, that energized a range of utopian aesthetic projects throughout the interbellum decades, remains one of the definitive hallmarks of modernist culture. The unfolding of postwar history through the present has increasingly discredited the orthodox marxist faith in the working class as the front line in the collective appropriation of capital's new industrial and technological forces of production. Instead, the instrumental rationality shaping the productive apparatus intensified the labor process at once to the benefit of management and the detriment of labor. The new wave of computerization, containerization, and robotics in the 1960s did not so much ease as intensify the labor process. Such high tech advances, for the most part, stepped up the proletarianization and deskilling of workers, displacing them from lucrative, unionized jobs in the steel, automobile, and transportation industries into non-unionized and often temporary service positions.^7^ 

[7] Throughout the 1950s, as Ernest Mandel and more recently Fredric Jameson have observed, the sudden reserve of technological innovation in electronics, communication, and systems analysis and management--conceived during the war years and then coupled with accumulated resources of surplus wealth--allowed capital to penetrate new markets through a constant turnover not only of new services and commodity forms but of hitherto undreamt of sources of fabricated consumer needs and desires. This transition from a pre- to postwar economy challenged capital at once to deterritorialize its modern limits in the industrial workplace and to reterritorialize the entire fabric of everyday life for consumption.^8^ One symptom of this paradigm shift was the fragmentation of the working class community that--dwelling in the political and phenomenological spaces of extended social solidarity (the union hall, the local factory tavern, fraternal clubs, and so on)--was radically decentered and dispersed along the new superhighways out into the netherworld of suburban America. 

[8] In the post-Depression era, traditionally urban, ethnic, and working class neighborhoods--like those, say, of the ante-Fort Apache decades of the South Bronx--fell victim to the new generation of such metropolitan planners as Robert Moses.^9^ The tremendous drive to accommodate the ever more expansive and mobile traffic in consumer goods and services cut through the heart of the 'hood, leaving behind, in Marshall Berman's telling impressions of the Long Island Expressway, "monoliths of steel and cement, devoid of vision or nuance or play, sealed off from the surrounding city by great moats of stark empty space, stamped on the landscape with a ferocious contempt for all natural and human life."^10^ Along these clotted arteries and by-passes, American workers were fleeing the decaying precincts of the modern city, seduced by the new suburban vision whose prototype mushroomed from a 1,500-acre Long Island potato farm bought-out by William J. Levitt in 1949. The first community to apply the logic of Fordism to home construction, Levittown overnight threw up some 17,500 virtually identical prefabricated four-room houses, followed by centrally designed plans for Levittown II an eight square mile suburb on the Delaware River.^11^ 

[9] Ever more cloistered and privatized within such serial neighborhoods of single family track houses, working class America succumbed little by little to the postmodern regime of the commodity form. No longer limited to accumulating surplus value from its modern settings of industrial production--the factory, textile mill, powerplant, construction site, or agribusiness combine--capital now seized on the frontier markets of consumption: the mall, the road strip, the nuclear household, the body, the unconscious--with ever new generations of consumer items, electrical appliances, gadgetry of all kinds, prepackaged foods, gas and restaurant franchises, accelerating rhythms of style, fashion, and popular trends in music, teen culture, and suburban living. Here, the cement and steel hardscapes of the older urban environment were supplanted by the high-end, chi-chi-frou-frou softscapes of such mushrooming "edge cities" as Schaumburg, Illinois; Atlanta's Perimeter Center; California's Silicon Valley and Orange County; and the Washington D.C. beltway.^12^ 

[10] As Henri Lefebvre, Guy Debord, and the Situationists had argued, the ideology of consumerism--now reproduced throughout the omnipresent spectacle of advertising, selling, and purchasing of new goods, services, products, and cultural styles--came to dominate the total makeup of everyday life, eroding the older working class values of industrious productivity, active creativity, and proletarian solidarity--replacing them with the ideals of consumption, possessive individualism, and upward class mobility. One symptom of this shift into the postmodern register of spectacular consumerism was what Lefebvre described as "the enormous amount of signifiers liberated or insufficiently connected to their corresponding signifieds (words, gestures, images and signs), and thus made available to advertising and propaganda."^13^ Suddenly the world's entire semiotic fabric, from the sprawling lay-out of the suburban town to a commercial's most intimate proxemic code, was now readable (and thus susceptible to reinscription) in ways that articulated everyday life to the discourse of advertising, publicity, and spectacular display. Yet within what Lefebvre described as the "bureaucratic society of controlled consumption" it was capital that exploited the powers of textual representation to maintain a constant obsolescence of needs as such, paradoxically, within a fixed framework of institutional durability. The task was to balance the necessity for a fast-paced turnover of cultural forms and trends in the consumer market in contradiction with the class strategy of preserving permanence, stability, and hierarchy amidst rapid cultural change. It is this double strategy that, for Lefebvre, underwrites and constantly renegotiates consumer society's spectacular promotion. 

[11] Supplementing Lefebvre, Baudrillard has, of course, more radically deconstructed marxism's traditional margin that separates commodity and sign, theorizing both as mutually traversed by a "homological structure" of exchange.^14^ In Baudrillard's descriptive account of postmodern simulation, the McLuhanesque slogan that the "medium is the message" reaches an estranging, postmodern limit where the medium of telecommunication infiltrates, mimics, mutates, and finally exterminates the Real like a virus or genetic code, in what Baudrillard describes as a global, "satellization of the real."^15^ Not insignificantly, with the death of the referent, the social contract and political institutions conceived out of the universalist ideals the Enlightenment are likewise thrown into jeopardy. Against the orthodoxy of the Old Left, the spectacle of postmodernism, for Baudrillard, positions mass society not so much as a valorized political agent but more as a passive medium or conductor for the cultural simulation of every representable social need, libidinal desire, political interest, or popular opinion.^16^ 

[12] Relentlessly polled, solicited, and instructed by the print, television, and video media--whose corporate advertising budgets dwarf those of public and private education--the masses, in Baudrillard's descriptive account, are absorbed into a wholly commodified habitus. The revenge of mass society, however, is expressed, for Baudrillard, as the sheer inertia of its silent majority: its tendency to consume in excess any message, code, or sign that is broadcast its way. No longer the figure for the proletarian class, a people, a citizenry, or any stable political constituency, the masses now mark the abysmal site of the radical equivalence of all value--a density that simply implodes, in one of Baudrillard's astrophysical metaphors, like a collapsing star, drawing into itself "all radiation from the outlying constellations of State, History, Culture, Meaning."^17^ When simulation has overrun the political sphere, tactics of stepping up the exchange and consumption of goods, services, information flows, and new technologies--the whole hyperreal economy of postmodern 

potlatch--serve to debunk any vestiges of use value, rationality, or authenticity legitimating affirmative bourgeois culture. 

[13] More politically engaged, perhaps, than this rather pessimistic take on postmodern simulation is the kind of specific tactics of aesthetic resistance, critique, and intervention that, given his totalizing account, Baudrillard is driven to reject as hopelessly utopian. Beyond the scant attention that Baudrillard has devoted to subcultural resistance, theorists such as Michel de Certeau, Stuart Hall, Rosalind Brunt, Dick Hebdige, and the New Times collective have offered more nuanced studies of micropolitical praxes of subversion.^18^ Such theoretical approaches to a postmodern politics of consumption have considered the multiple ways in which particular groups and individuals not merely consume but rearticulate to their own political agendas dominant signs taken, say, from the discourses of advertising, fashion, television, contemporary music, and pop culture in general. 

[14] Beyond content analyses, explications, or close readings of various textual praxes, a more productive approach to the micropolitics of postmodern resistance examines what audiences, viewers, readers, and shoppers produce with the texts, artifacts, and commodity forms they consume.^19^ What looks like a spectacle of passive consumerism actually yields a multiplicity of "tactics," options, and occasions for actively negotiating what Michel Foucault would describe as a "microphysics of power." Advancing Foucault's theory of disciplinary and institutional surveillance, de Certeau draws a cogent distinction between the established hegemonic regimes (or strategies) of power and the marginal and subaltern tactics of oppositional contestation and subversion that traverse them.^20^ The reproduction of consumerism, of course, relies on certain well-established strategies of representation that map the social field into a coded space of commodity exchange. The discourse of advertising, in particular--with its notorious manipulation of image and text--stands out as a ripe medium for the tactical subversion of dominant slogans and stereotypes. 

[15] Throughout the 1970s and 1980s one specific site for exposing and interrupting the popular media's reproduction of consumer society has been its sexist inscription of gender. Responding to the spectacle of postmodernism, critical artists like Barbara Kruger, Jenny Holzer, and Hans Haacke have adopted tactics of quotation, citation, and appropriation that were pioneered some five decades earlier in Benjamin's examination of international Dada and the Russian futurists in such essays as "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" and "The Artist as Producer."^21^ The challenge that Benjamin laid down was for every author to become a producer, every artist a theorist, in the general remapping of generic boundaries, aesthetic traditions, and cultural conventions that the age demanded. Not incidentally, in photography this political requisite entailed a subversion of "the barrier between writing and image. What we require of the photographer," Benjamin insisted, "is the ability to give his picture the caption that wrenches it from modish commerce and gives it a revolutionary useful value" (AP 230). In thus linking photographic activity to language and signification, Benjamin's critique of photographic mimesis looks forward to Roland Barthes' postwar argument that "the conventions of photography . . . are themselves replete with signs."^22^ In the age of mass communication, as Barthes would go on to argue in the 1960s, every pictorial form is always already a linguistic text.^23^ 

[16] Barthes' sophisticated, textual analysis of the photographic image, tied as it is to Benjamin's avant-garde concern for art's functional transformation of its enabling cultural apparatus, provides a theoretical vantage point for reading contemporary feminist interventions in the contemporary media, such as those, say, of Barbara Kruger. A one-time designer for Conde Nast during the 1970s, Kruger was thoroughly disciplined in the craft of commercial media design, whose graphic techniques, discursive codes, and semiotic protocols she appropriated in the 1980s for tactical reinscriptions of sexist, racist, and classist representations in the popular media. While her plates and posters have the look and feel of slick ads, the politics they inscribe cut across the grain of consumerist ideology. Indeed, her images often allude to the general violence, oppression, and humiliation entailed in the cultural logic of unequal exchange fostered under advanced capitalism. But equally important, her collages are frequently articulated to various micropolitical agendas as in her participation in exhibitions like the _Disarming Images: Art for Nuclear Disarmament_ (1984-86) show sponsored by Bread and Roses, the cultural organ of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees, AFL-CIO. She also collaborates in any number of direct political actions, such as, say, her poster "Your Body is a Battleground" advertising the 1989 March on Washington in support of Roe v. Wade. 

[17] Shaping such street level praxes, Kruger's formal tactic is to open up the precoded space of the advertising sign--what de Certeau would call its strategy--to unreadable gaps, contradictions, accusations, and dire judgments that interrupt our conventional responses and habits of consumption. The dominant coding of gender in the mass media--its repertoire of body language, facial expressions, styles of dress, and so on--positions the sexes differentially to reproduce a semiotics of patriarchal privilege, expertise, and authority, on the one hand, and feminine passivity, sexual ingratiation, and infantilization, on the other. Such commercial photographs, as Erving Goffman's seminal study _Gender Advertisements_ (1979) has argued, broadcast a posed "hyper-ritualization" of social situations, whose images are, more often than not, calculated to oppress women in subordinate roles to equally idealized male counterparts.^24^ Much of Kruger's photographic appropriation of ad imagery and media slogans undermines and repudiates the sexist, semiotic economy of capitalist patriarchy. For example, the deployment of personal pronouns, typically used to solicit the reader's investment in ad texts, serves in Kruger's hands to heighten sexual antagonisms, as in "We won't play nature to your culture." Here Kruger repudiates the dead letter of patriarchal stereotyping that, as Simone de Beauvoir theorized, reduces women's place to that of passive "Other": projected outside male civil order as nature, the unconscious, the exotic, what is either forbidden or taboo.^25^ 

[18] Appropriating the glossy look of postmodern advertising--whose specular, imaginary form solicits from the viewer a certain narcissism, a certain scopophilia-- Kruger rebuffs the valorized male reader, anathematizing this subject position with uncompromising, feminist refusals and such arresting judgments as: You thrive on mistaken identity. Your devotion has the look of a lunatic sport. You molest from afar. You destroy what you think is difference. I am your reservoir of poses. I am your immaculate conception. I will not become what I mean to you. We won't play nature to your culture. We refuse to be your favorite embarrassments. Keep us at a distance. While advertising exploits such "shifters" to ease consumption, Kruger's slogans maintain an urgent tension that throws into crisis any "normal" positioning of gendered pronouns. Her uncanny fusion of text and image, her impeccable craft, and her estranging wit resist any easy or complacent didacticism, however. 

[19] More politically undecidable, perhaps, than Kruger's feminist subversions of advertising discourse are Jenny Holzer's critical interventions within the electronic apparatus of the postmodern spectacle, particularly her appropriation of light emitting diode (L.E.D.) boards. As an art student at the Rhode Island School of Design in the mid-1970s, Holzer came to New York via the Whitney Museum's Independent Study Program in 1976-77. After collaborating with a number of performance artists at the Whitney, she jettisoned her pursuit of painterly values and in 1977 began to compose gnomic aphorisms that she collected in a series of "Truisms" formatted onto posters, stickers, handbills, hats, T-shirts, and other paraphernalia. Not unlike Daniel Buren's deconstruction of the gallery's conventional exhibition space, Holzer took her placards to the streets of Soho and later throughout Manhattan. This aesthetic gambit not only allowed her to solicit a populist audience but gave her work a certain shock value in its estrangement of everyday life. "From the beginning," she has said, "my work has been designed to be stumbled across when someone is just walking along, not thinking about anything in particular, and then finds these unusual statements either on a poster or on a sign."^26^ 

[20] The verbal character of the "Truisms" themselves relies on the familiar slogans and one-liners common to tabloid journalism, the _Reader's Digest_ headline, the TV evangelist pitch-line, campaign rhetoric, rap and hip-hop lyrics, bumper sticker and T-shirt displays, and countless other kitsch forms. In some ways the plainspoken vernacular of her midwest Ohio roots is, as Holzer admits, naturally suited to such cliched formats. What might redeem this risky project, possibly, is her avant-garde tactic of investing such predictable messages, and their all-too-familiar modes of mass distribution (posters, stickers, handbills, plaques, hats, T-shirts, and so on) with conflicted, schizophrenic, and at times politicized content. Her messages traverse the full spectrum of everyday life ranging from the reactionary complacency implied, say, in "AN ELITE IS INEVITABLE," or "ENJOY YOURSELF BECAUSE YOU CAN'T CHANGE ANYTHING ANYWAY," to the feminist essentialism of "A MAN CAN'T KNOW WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE A MOTHER," to the populist credo that "GRASS ROOTS AGITATION IS THE ONLY HOPE," to the postmarxist position that "CLASS STRUCTURE IS AS ARTIFICIAL AS PLASTIC." Foregrounding popular truisms as cliched slogans, she playfully deconstructs the humanist rhetoric of evangelism ("AWFUL PUNISHMENT AWAITS REALLY BAD PEOPLE"); pop psychoanalysis ("SOMETIMES YOUR UNCONSCIOUS IS TRUER THAN YOUR CONSCIOUS MIND"); advice columns and self-help manuals ("EXPRESSING ANGER IS NECESSARY"); as well as the usual saws, platitudes, and hackneyed bromides that are with us everywhere: A LITTLE KNOWLEDGE CAN GO A LONG WAY. A LOT OF OFFICIALS ARE CRACKPOTS. DON'T RUN PEOPLE'S LIVES FOR THEM. GOOD DEEDS EVENTUALLY ARE REWARDED. EVERY ACHIEVEMENT REQUIRES A SACRIFICE. A SOLID HOME BASE BUILDS A SENSE OF SELF. While the political intent of some of her truisms is undecidably voiced--"GOVERNMENT IS A BURDEN ON THE PEOPLE," for example, is as serviceable to the reactionary right as the utopian left--others are more perversely drained of any meaning at all: "EVERYTHING THAT'S INTERESTING IS NEW." 

[21] Nonsensical, parodic, and ideologically loaded, such clashing platitudes, mottos, and non-sequiturs quickly caught on and won Holzer a popular audience, as evidenced not only in the traces of dialogic graffito left on her street posters, but in her window installations and exhibitions at Franklin Furnace (1978) and Fashion Moda in the South Bronx the following year. At this time Holzer undertook joint ventures such as the "Manifesto Show" that she helped organize with Colen Fitzgibbon and the Collaborative Projects group. Later, she would turn toward distinctively feminist collaborations with the female graffiti artists Lady Pink and Ilona Granet. Supplementing the poster art of "Truisms," Holzer in her 1980 "Living" series branched out into other materials, inscribing her aphorisms in more monumental formats such as the kind of bronze plaques, commemorative markers, and commercial signs that everywhere bestow a kind of kitsch authority on offices, banks, government buildings, galleries, museums, and so on. 

[22] One symptom of her work's emerging power was the resistance it met from patrons such as the Marine Midland Bank on Broadway that responding to one of her truisms-- "IT'S NOT GOOD TO LIVE ON CREDIT"--dismantled her window installation, consigning it to a broomcloset. Not unlike Hans Haacke's celebrated expulsion from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, such censorship testified to her work's site-specific shock value. In the mid-1980s, Holzer intensified her art's political content in her more militant "Survival" series and, at the same time, undertook a bolder appropriation of a uniquely authoritative and spectacular medium: the light emitting diode (L.E.D.) boards installed worldwide in stock exchanges, urban squares, airports, stadiums, sports arenas, and other mass locales. The formal elements of this new high tech medium--its expanded memory of over 15,000 characters coupled with a built-in capacity for special visual effects and dynamic motion--advanced Holzer's poster aesthetics into the linguistic registers of poetics and textual performance art. 

[23] However Holzer's work "naturalizes" the impersonal displays of her computerized texts, it shares in the Derridean, antihumanist deconstruction of the rhetorical presuppositions underwriting transcendental signified meaning, foundational thought, common sense--all ideal "truisms." The L.E.D. board's electronic mimicry of rhythm, inflection, and the play of visual emphasis allows Holzer's mass art to solicit the humanist division between orality and inscription, logos and text, speech and writing so as to put into an uncanny, deconstructive play the margin of %differance% that normally separates the intimacy and immediacy of a voiced presence from the authoritative textual screens which function as the official media for postmodernism's high tech information society.^27^ "A great feature of the signs," she has said, "is their capacity to move, which I love because it's so much like the spoken word: you can emphasize things; you can roll and pause which is the kinetic equivalent to inflection in voice" (LG 67). 

[24] Yet as "an official or commercial format normally used for advertising or public service announcements" the L.E.D. signboard, Holzer maintains, is also the medium par excellence of contemporary information society.^28^ They are singularly positioned to reproduce the dominant, ideological signs that naturalize the reign of the commodity form. "The big signs," she has said, "made things seem official"; appropriating this public medium "was like having the voice of authority say something different from what it would normally say."^29^ Such interventions are pragmatically suasive, however, only if they hold in contradiction the dominant forms of the mass media and estranged, or radically ironic messages. In 1982, under the auspices of the Public Art Fund, Holzer went to the heart of America's mass spectacle, choosing selections from among her most succinct and powerful "Truisms" for public broadcast on New York's mammoth Times Square Spectacolor Board. Commenting on the scandal-ridden political milieu of the Reagan era, slogans such as ABUSE OF POWER COMES AS NO SURPRISE were circulating suddenly at the very crossroads of American consumer society. Negotiating the official spaces of New York advertising demanded a reconsideration of the artwork beyond the limits of intrinsic form. 

[25] The formal composition of Holzer's spectacolor boards is mediated by site specific forces in an expanded public field of legal, commercial, and political interests. For example, in mounting her own media blitz on Las Vegas--the American mecca of glitzy signage and neon kitsch--Holzer's choice of message, L.E.D. formats, and installation locales had to be adjudicated through a network of businesspeople, university managers, and political officials. Through these negotiations, and supported in part by the Nevada Institute of Contemporary Art, Holzer gained access to L.E.D. signs and poster installation sites in two shopping centers, the University of Nevada's sports center, the baggage claim areas of the Las Vegas airport, and the massive spectacolor publicity board outside Caesar's Palace. Infiltrating Vegas' neon aura, Holzer's telling message, displayed on the Dectronic Starburst double-sided electronic signboard of Caesar's Palace-- PROTECT ME FROM WHAT I WANT --laid bare the contradictory wager of consumerism at the heart of the postmodern spectacle. 

[26] Throughout the 1980s, Holzer mounted similar installations on Alcoa Corporation's giant L.E.D. sign outside Pittsburgh, on mobile truck signs in New York, and other sites nationwide. Moreover, as an intern for a television station in Hartford, Holzer began to purchase commercial time to broadcast her messages in 30-second commercial slots throughout the Northeast to a potential audience of millions. Here Holzer's textual praxis is guided by the same strategy of defamiliarization: mainlining the dominant arteries and electronic organs of the mass communications apparatus with postmodern ironies and heady, linguistic estrangements. "Again, the draw for me," she says, "is that the unsuspecting audience will see very different content from what they're used to seeing in this everyday medium. It's the same principle that's at work with the signs in a public place" (LG 68). Whether Holzer's art remains oppositional to, rather than incorporated by, the postmodern spectacle has become a more pressing question, given her rising star status in the late 1980s and 1990s. 

[27] As a valorized figure in the world art market, Holzer enjoys regular gallery exhibitions in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, Cologne, and other major art centers. In 1990 alone she not only undertook shows in the prestigious Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and DIA Art Foundation, but served as the official U.S. representative to the Venice Biennale. When she made the jump from street agitation to international stardom in the late 1980s, Holzer adjusted her presentation, paradoxically, to the more intimate and privatized nuances of commercial exhibition space. Installed in such settings as the Barbara Gladstone Gallery, the Grand Lobby of the Brooklyn Museum, the Rhona Hoffman Gallery, the Guggenheim, and the DIA Art Foundation, her new "Under a Rock" and "Laments" series inscribed her earlier truisms in granite and marble benches and sarcophagi quarried in Vermont near her summer residence in Hoosick, New York. Casting her truisms in stonework summoned an uncanny fusion of the monumental and the popular, at once glossing the medium of tombstones, anonymous war memorials, commemorative benches, and the kind of kitsch, public furniture found, say, in any bank lobby or shopping plaza. 

[28] Departing from the spectacular spaces of Times Square and the Las Vegas strip, "Under a Rock" invoked the hushed atmosphere of a chapel by displaying files of stone benches, each illuminated by an overhead spotlight and arranged before a color L.E.D. display. Such a sparse and shadowy layout--in its simulacral citation of church pews and stained glass iconography--employed a postmodern medium, paradoxically, to invoke a ritual aura of mourning, confession, and moral self-examination that would complement the work's verbal content of unspeakable acts of torture, mutilation, and humiliation. While her terse, indeterminate narratives are not tied to any specific public agenda, they often adopt a feminist critique of male violence, misogyny, and machismo. Although many of her "laments" are lyrical-- "I KEEP MY BRAIN ON SO I DO NOT FALL INTO NOTHING IF HIS CLAWS HURT ME"--others more broadly rely on the kind of fetishized coding of militarism, torture, and political assassination that, say, Leon Golub finds everywhere displayed in the contemporary media: "PEOPLE GO TO THE RIVER WHERE IT IS / LUSH AND MUDDY TO SHOOT CAPTIVES, / TO FLOAT OR SINK THEM. SHOTS KILL / MEN WHO ALWAYS WANT. SOMEONE / IMAGINED OR SAW THEM LEAPING TO / SAVAGE THE GOVERNMENT. NOW BODIES / DIVE AND GLIDE IN THE WATER. SCARING / FRIENDS OR MAKING THEM FURIOUS." The spare and plainspoken language of "Under a Rock" is designed neither to shock the reader nor to subvert the linguistic medium, as in much of so-called Language writing. Rather, her work exposes how the representation of such barbarism has moved to the center of the postmodern scene, whose routine horror is the daily stuff of the tabloid, the morning edition, and nightly update. 

[29] More subversive, perhaps, is the juxtaposition of linguistic elements and the arrangement of physical space that her installations exploit. In her DIA Foundation "Laments," for example, Holzer staked out the exhibition space with thirteen sarcophagi--variously carved in green and red marble, onyx, and black granite--illuminated with postmodern LED display boards that radiate vertically arrayed messages into the hushed and sepulchral air. Yet the effect of such a bizarre mix of antique caskets and high tech light grids is undecidable. Is it calculated to disrupt conventional oppositions between ancient artifacts and today's telecommunication medium, or to re-auraticize the L.E.D. medium as an object of contemporary veneration? Are the sarcophagi exposed as exhibition fetishes or simply updated in an aestheticized homage to the postmodern objet d'art? Undeniable, in any case, is the manic structure of feeling you experience sitting on one of Holzer's granite benches bombarded by an electronic frieze of visually intense messages. 

[30] However deconstructive of traditional gallery values, the political status of Holzer's recent installations-- marked at once as objects of ritual "lament" and art market souvenirs--is debatable. On the one hand, new works such as Child Text--conceived for her 1990 Venice Biennial installation--productively negotiate between a personal phenomenology of mothering (as in "I AM SULLEN AND THEN FRANTIC WHEN I CANNOT BE WHOLLY WITHIN / THE ZONE OF MY INFANT. I AM NOT CONSUMED BY HER. I AM AN / ANIMAL WHO DOES ALL SHE SHOULD. I AM SURPRISED THAT I / CARE WHAT HAPPENS TO HER. I WAS PAST FEELING MUCH / BECAUSE I WAS TIRED OF MYSELF BUT I WANT HER TO LIVE") and a social critique of what Adrienne Rich has theorized as motherhood's institutional place under patriarchy. On the other hand, however, such displays are themselves commodity forms within the gallery exchange market, fetching up to $40,000 per L.E.D. sign, $30,000 per granite bench, and $50,000 per sarcophagus. It is not Holzer's purpose, of course, to deny or repress her work's commodity status but rather to exploit it in de-auraticizing gallery art's remove from its commercial base. Holzer's truisms have always been up for sale but at the more populist rates of $15 per cap or T-shirt and $250 per set of 21 posters. When she markets a granite slab, however, for the price of a luxury car, her earlier truism-- PRIVATE PROPERTY CREATED CRIME--must necessarily return with a vengeance. Indeed, Holzer does not flinch from such self- recrimination but pushes the difficult paradox of aesthetic critique and recuperation to its vexed limits: "selling my work to wealthy people," she admits, "can be like giving little thrills to the people I'm sometimes criticizing."^30^ For all its honesty, such a frank acknowledgement of commodification, nonetheless, is a chilling echo of her onetime truism "AN ELITE IS INEVITABLE," leaving Holzer susceptible to the critique of what Donald Kuspit has indicted as "Gallery Leftism": an aesthetic politics "calculated to make a certain impact, occupy a certain position, in the art world, whose unconscious ultimate desire is to produce museum art however much it consciously sees itself as having socio-political effect in the world."^31^ 

[31] Part of what is at stake here is the difference between merely rehearsing the avant-garde critique of the museum-- now itself a thoroughly stylized and recuperated gesture of protest--and committing art to social change. To her credit, Holzer's key precedent has unhinged the fixed status of today's communication apparatus, leaving it susceptible to more adventurous, more politicized interventions. Nevertheless, the overtly commercialized status of Holzer's "truisms" lends itself to gallery recuperation in a way that the more politicized and collaborative projects of, say, Artmakers, or Political Art Distribution/Documentation (PADD) is calculated to deny. Since the mid-'80s, the graphic resources pioneered by such visual/text artists as Hans Haacke, Holzer, and Kruger have been appropriated from the New York art market and articulated, at street level, as in, say, Greenpeace's critique of advanced capitalism's environmental settlement, or Act Up's agitation on behalf of people with AIDS. 

[32] Responding to the Reagan/Bush era's attempts to "greenwash" devastating environmental policies through slick public relations campaigns, Greenpeace has had to respond precisely at the level of the media image to rearticulate such ideologically-loaded spectacles to its own progressive agenda. "Greenpeace believes," says Steve Loper, the Action Director for Greenpeace, U.S.A, "that an image is an all-important thing. The direct actions call attention to the issues we're involved in. We put a different point of view out that usually ends up on the front page of the paper . . . If we just did research and lobbying and came out with a report it would probably be on the 50th page of the paper."^32^ 

[33] The creation of compelling images, however, is a rigorously site specific process and--although articulated to politicized positions on, say, nuclear arms escalation, deforestation, or toxic dumping--each intervention is radically contingent on the particular, conjunctural forces and pragmatic demands of a given moment. One of Greenpeace's tactics is to seize on popular news stories such as the scandalous New York City garbage barge that, in the absence of a dump site, sailed up and down the eastern seaboard throughout 1987. Appropriating this object of sustained public embarrassment, Greenpeace rearticulated it to the theme of conservation through unfurling a giant banner across the length of the vessel reading: "NEXT TIME . . . TRY RECYCLING." Greenpeace's better known gambit is to go to the heart of America's monumental icons of national heritage such as, say, South Dakota's Mount Rushmore or New York's Statue of Liberty to recode their spectacular meanings to its own agenda. Such was Greenpeace's strategy in its 1987 attempt to place a giant surgical mask over the mouth of Rushmore's George Washington reading "WE THE PEOPLE SAY NO TO ACID RAIN" and its 1984 antinuclear banner, hung like a giant stripped-in caption on the Statue of Liberty in commemoration of the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: "Give Me Liberty From Nuclear Weapons, Stop Testing." 

[34] On the vanguard of such postmodern agitational work, guerilla collectives like Gran Fury, Little Elvis, and Wave Three of ACT UP have mastered the fine art of interventionist critique. In 1989, for example, Gran Fury borrowed from the appropriation of advertising discourse, popularized by Hans Haacke in the 1970s, to refocus public attention on corporate profiteering from the AIDS crisis. The collective's formal tactic followed Haacke's uncanny fusions of slick advertising visuals set in contradiction with texts exposing the often brutal work settings and ruthless industrial practices such imagery normally deflects. But unlike Haacke's point of subversion, positioned as it is within museum culture, Gran Fury's mode of distribution targeted a potentially much wider audience: the readership of _The New York Times_. In "New York Crimes," Gran Fury produced a meticulous four-page simulacrum of the print layout and masthead design of the _Times_ which documented the Koch administration's cuts to hospital facilities servicing AIDS, its failure to address the housing needs of New York's homeless People with AIDS (PWAs), its cutbacks to city drug treatment programs by effectively shifting them to shrinking state budgets, and the latter's withholding of condoms and medical support to the 25% of state prison inmates tested positive for HIV infection. On the morning of ACT UP's March 28, 1989 mass demonstration on City Hall, Gran Fury opened _New York Times_ vending boxes and wrapped the paper in their own "NY Crimes" jacket. For those who would simply ignore the stories, Gran Fury also included a slick clash of text and image that articulated the visual iconography of painstaking antiviral research to outrageous corporate greed summed up in an unguarded quote from Patrick Gage of Hoffman-La Roche, Inc.. "One million [people with AIDS]," Gage mused, "isn't a market that's exciting. Sure it's growing, but it's not asthma." Such callous disregard for life is played off Gran Fury's polemical caption that plainly lays out its discursive counter-strategy: "This is to Enrage You." 

[35] Perhaps the image that has best stood the test of time, however, is Gran Fury's _Read My Lips_ lithograph produced for a Spring 1988 AIDS Action Kiss-in to protest against gay bashing. _Read My Lips_ employs a camp image of two forties-style sailors in a loving embrace, thereby articulating the identity politics of gender to a bold, homoerotic sexuality. But beyond this obvious agenda, the work's clever textual layout cites Barbara Kruger's interventionist aesthetic to signify on George Bush's 1988 campaign vow to slash tax supports for domestic social programs. Such sophisticated metasimulations of the advertising sign's formal inmixing of image and text recode today's largely homophobic world outlook to make us think twice about what Adrienne Rich has defined as compulsory heterosexuality.^33^ As we pass beyond the twentieth- century scene into the new millennium, it will surely be in the collaborative aesthetic praxes of such new social movements--articulated as they are to class, environmental, racial, feminist, gay rights, and public health issues--that America's avant-garde legacy of cultural intervention will live on: its political edge cutting through the semiosis of everyday life, going to the heart of the postmodern spectacle. 

------------------------------------------------------------ 

NOTES 

^1^ Hilton Kramer, "Turning Back the Clock," _The New Criterion_ (April 1984), 72. 

^2^ Clement Greenberg, "Modernist Painting," _The New Art_, ed. Gregory Battock (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1973), 101 (hereafter cited in the text as MP). 

^3^ While Greenberg is often set up as the strawman for contesting art's ontological remove from history, his actual idealization of high modernism rests (as does Adorno's) not on an ontic difference but a relational reaction to the spreading reign of kitsch. On this point see Rosalind Krauss, _The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths_ (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985), 1; Andreas Huyssen, _After the Great Divide: Modernism, Mass Culture, Postmodernism_ (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 57; Thomas Crow, "Modernism and Mass Culture," in Benjamin H.D. Buchloch, Serge Guilbaut and David Solkin, eds. _Modernism and Modernity_ (Halifax: Press of Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1983), 215-264; and T.J. Clark, "Clement Greenberg's Theory of Art," _The Politics of Interpretation_, ed. W.J.T. Mitchell (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983), 203-220. 

^4^ Clement Greenberg, "Avant-Garde and Kitsch," _Partisan Review_ 6 (Fall 1939), 34-49, rpt. in _Mass Culture_, ed. Bernard Rosenberg and David Manning White (Chicago: The Free Press, 1957), 107 (hereafter cited in the text as AK). 

^5^ The traffic in contemporary spectacle, for Benjamin, did not yet constitute a one-way flow, noting that "the newsreel offers everyone the opportunity to rise from passer-by to movie extra. In this way any man might even find himself part of a work of art." Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," _Illuminations_, tr. Harry Zohn (New York: Schocken Books, 1985), 231 (hereafter cited in the text as WMP). 

^6^ In this vein, Benjamin cited Dadaism's experiments with the new techniques of mechanical reproduction which not only led to their playful reframings of "masterpiece" art and other cultural icons, but also the appropriation of objects collaged from everyday life. While such tactics achieved only localized, provisional effects in the West, the Russian avant-gardes mounted a broader strategy of sociocultural renovation in the early years of the Soviet Union. The example of the worker-correspondent drawn from Soviet journalism served, for Benjamin, to deconstruct the oppositional roles that--propped up as they are by the bourgeois cult of specialization--separates writer and reader, expert and layman, poet and critic, scholar and performer. Unlike the capitalist press, which reproduces dominant bourgeois class interests, newspaper publication in Russia, Benjamin argued, offered a "theater of literary confusion" that nevertheless broadcast the political concerns of the writer as producer, and more widely, "the man on the sidelines who believes he has a right to see his own interests expressed." Walter Benjamin, "The Artist as Producer," _Reflections_, tr. Edmund Jephcott (New York: Schocken Books, 1986), 300 (hereafter cited in the text as AP). 

^7^ Consider the dehumanizing regime, say, of a McDonald's kitchen. In this postmodern sweatshop, employees are trained by video disks to perform the tedious, predesigned regimens for twenty-odd work stations that when meshed together make each franchise a highly efficient fastfood production machine. Each of the twenty-four burgers one cooks in any given batch is part of a completely Taylorized process: from the premeasured beef patties to the computerized timers for heating each bun, to the automatic catsup, mustard, and special sauce dispensers, to the formulas for the exact measurements of onion bits, pickles, and lettuce each Big Mac receives. Far from possessing even the autonomy of a short order cook, one serves here purely as a cog in a ninety second burger assembly-line. Moreover, from the monitored soft-drink spigots to the fully automated registers, from the computerized formulas for hiring, scheduling, and organizing workers to the centrally administered accounting systems, every aspect of a McDonald's franchise is organized and scrutinized in minute detail by the panoptic Hamburger Central in Oak Brook, Illinois. A thoroughly postmodern institution, McDonald's presides at any given time over a temporary workforce of some 500,000 teenagers; by the mid-1980s 7% or nearly 8 million Americans had earned their living under the sign of the Golden Arches. See John F. Love, _McDonald's Behind the Golden Arches_ (New York: Bantam, 1986) and Barbara Garson, _The Electronic Sweatshop_ (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988), 19. 

^8^ For a discussion of de- and reterritorialization, see Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari, _A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia_, tr. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1988). 

^9^ As New York State and City Parks Commissioner, Moses, of course, had commandeered the productivist ethos of the interbellum decades to forge a huge "public authority" bureaucracy of federal, state, and private interests that backed the renovation of Central Park, Long Island's Jones Beach, Flushing Meadow fairgrounds--the site of the 1939-40 New York World's Fair--and 1700 recreational facilities, as well as the construction of such mammoth highway, bridge, and parkway systems as the West Side Highway, the Belt Parkway, and the Triborough Project. While labor was recruited to build these giant thoroughfares and spectacular, recreational spaces, it could not control the irresistible momentum of social modernization that burst through the seams of the older metropolitan cityscape. 

^10^ Marshall Berman, _All That is Solid Melts in Air: The Experience of Modernity_ (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1982), 308. 

^11^ Levittown II, in William Manchester's description, comprised "schools, churches, baseball diamonds, a town hall, factory sidings, parking lots, offices for doctors and dentists, a reservoir, a shopping center, a railroad station, newspaper presses, garden clubs--enough, in short, to support a densely populated city of 70,000, the tenth largest in Pennsylvania." William Manchester, _The Glory and the Dream, A Narrative History of America_, 1932-1972 (New York: Bantam Books, 1980), 432. 

^12^ "Edge cities," writes Joel Garreau, "represent the third wave of our lives pushing into new frontiers in this half century. First we moved our homes out past the traditional idea of what constituted a city. This was the suburbanization of America, especially after World War II. Then we wearied of returning downtown for the necessities of life, so we moved our marketplaces out to where we lived. This was the malling of America, especially in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, we have moved our means of creating wealth, the essence of urbanism--our jobs--out to where most of us have lived and shopped for two generations. That has led to the rise of Edge City." _Edge City: Life on the New Frontier_ (New York: Doubleday, 1991), 4. 

^13^ Henri Lefebvre, _Everyday Life in the Modern World_, tr. Sacha Rabinovitch (New York: Harper and Row, 1971), 56 (hereafter cited in the text as EL). 

^14^ "[T]oday consumption . . . defines precisely the stage where the commodity is immediately produced as a sign, as sign value, and where signs (culture) are produced as commodities." Jean Baudrillard, _For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign_, tr. Charles Levin (St. Louis: Telos Press, 1981), 147 (hereafter cited in the text as PES). 

^15^ "We must think of the media," he advises, "as if they were, in outer orbit, a sort of genetic code which controls the mutation of the real into the hyperreal, just as the other molecular code controls the passage of the signal from a representative sphere of meaning to the genetic sphere of the programmed signal." Jean Baudrillard, _Simulations_, tr. Paul Foss, Paul Patton, and Philip Beitchman (New York: Semiotext(e), 1983), 55 (hereafter cited in the text as S). Within the horizon of the hyperreal, the instant precession of every conceivable interpretive model and representation around and within any historical "fact" constitutes an indeterminate, virtually "magnetic field of events" (S 32), where the difference between the signified event and its simulacrum implodes now in a global circulation/ventilation of contradictory signals, mutating codes, and mixed messages. 

^16^ The presumption to speak now on behalf of the proletariat in some wholly unmediated fashion seems theoretically naive after the pressing debates of postmodernity. During the 1985 Institute of Contemporary Arts forum on postmodernism, for example, Jean-Francois Lyotard argued cogently against Terry Eagleton's orthodox nostalgia for the proletariat as the privileged agent for social change in the Third World. Following Kant, Lyotard pointed out that in contradistinction to designating specific laborers in culturally diversified communities, the term proletariat, nominating as it does a more properly universal "subject to be emancipated," is an ahistorical abstraction--a "pure Idea of Reason" having little purchase today on the actual politics of everyday life. Indeed, some of the greatest atrocities, he cautioned, have been perpetuated under this very category error of pursuing a "politics of the sublime": "That is to say, to make the terrible mistake of trying to represent in political practice an Idea of Reason. To be able to say, 'We are the proletariat' or 'We are the incarnation of free humanity.'" Jean-Francois Lyotard, "Defining the Postmodern, etc.," tr. G. Bennington, in _Postmodernism_ (London: ICA Documents 4 & 5, 1986), 11 (hereafter cited as ICA). 

^17^ Jean Baudrillard, _In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities_, tr. Paul Foss, Paul Patton, and Philip Beitchman (New York: Semiotext(e), 1983), 2 (hereafter cited in the text as SSM). 

^18^ See _New Times: The Changing Face of Politics in the 1990s_, ed. Stuart Hall and Martin Jacques (London: Lawrence & Wishart in association with _Marxism Today_, 1989). 

^19^ "Thus, once the images broadcast by television and the time spent in front of the TV set have been analyzed," writes de Certeau, "it remains to be asked what the consumer makes of these images and during these hours." Michel de Certeau, _The Practice of Everyday Life_, tr. Steven Rendall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 31 (hereafter cited in the text as PEL). 

^20^ Strategies, as de Certeau defines them, mark "a triumph of place over time" (PEL 36)--through transforming the unreadable contingencies of history into a legible, panoptic space. Tactics, in contrast, cut across, raid, and out-maneuver the logic, rules, and laws that govern such institutional and disciplinary sites of power. As the gambit of a weak force, a tactic relies on cunning, trickery, wit, finesse--what the Greeks described under the rubric of %metis%, or "ways of knowing" (PEL xix). 

^21^ In particular, feminist critiques of the chauvinist media representations perpetuated under capitalist patriarchy have benefitted from Benjamin's earlier class-based analysis of aesthetic tactics that in the interbellum decades effected a functional transformation --a Brechtian %Umfunktionierung%--of the then emerging apparatus of the bourgeois culture industry. It was the influence of Sergei Tretyakov and the postsynthetic cubist collaborations of the Russian suprematists, constructivists, and Laboratory Period figures that guided Benjamin's thinking on the avant-garde turn (brought about by photography, film, and other mechanically reproducible media) away from the modernist paradigm of aesthetic representation--its cult of artistic genius and the aura of the unique work of art. By taking into account an artwork's material conditions of exhibition, distribution, and audience reception, as part of its productive apparatus, the Russian constructivists decisively challenged the abstract and self-reflexive values of modern formalism in favor of the more critical representations of documentary photomontage and photocollage. The new cultural logic of mechanical reproduction, occasioned by photography and film, not only unsettled the traditional divide between high and low aesthetics but deconstructed conventional oppositions separating art from advertising, agitation, and propaganda. No longer invested with the aura of a ritual object, the artwork as such was opened to the vital dialectic between intrinsic form and the politics of mass persuasion. 

^22^ Roland Barthes, _Mythologies_, tr. Annette Lavers (London: Jonathan Cape, 1972), 92 (hereafter cited in the text as M). Photographic codes and the cultural messages they broadcast, serve, in their signifying elements and discursive objects, what Barthes theorized as the secondary, metalinguistic operations of myth and ideological representation. 

^23^ "Today, at the level of mass communications, it appears that the linguistic message is indeed present in every image: as title, caption, accompanying press article, film dialogue, comic strip balloon." Roland Barthes, _Image/Music/Text_, tr. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977), 38 (hereafter cited in the text as IMT). 

^24^ See Erving Goffman, _Gender Advertisements_ (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1979). 

^25^ See Simone de Beauvoir, _The Second Sex_, tr. H. M. Parshley (New York: Knopf, 1957), 132. 

^26^ Jenny Holzer, "Jenny Holzer's Language Games," interview with J. Siegel, _Arts Magazine_ 60 (December 1985), 67 (hereafter cited in the text as LG). 

^27^ "If, by hypothesis," Derrida writes, "we maintain that the opposition of speech to language is absolutely rigorous, then differance would be not only the play of differences within language but also the relation of speech to language, the detour through which I must pass in order to speak, the silent promise I must make; and this schemata, of message to code, etc.." Jacques Derrida, "Differance," _Margins of Philosophy_, tr. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), 15. 

^28^ Jenny Holzer, "Wordsmith, An Interview with Jenny Holzer," with Bruce Ferguson, _Art in America_ 74 (December 1986), 113. 

^29^ Paul Taylor, "We are the Word: Jenny Holzer Sees Aphorism as Art," _Vogue_ 178 (November 1988), 390. 

^30^ Quoted in Colin Westerbeck, "Jenny Holzer, Rhona Hoffman Gallery," _Artforum_ 25 (May 1987), 155. 

^31^ Donald Kuspit, "Gallery Leftism," _Vanguard_ 12 (November 1983), 24 (hereafter cited in the text as GL). 

^32^ December 1987 interview quoted in Steve Durland, "Witness: The Guerrilla Theater of Greenpeace," _Art In the Public Interest_, ed. Arlene Raven (Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1989), 35. 

^33^ See Adrienne Rich, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence," in _Blood, Bread, and Poetry_ (New York: W.W. Norton, 1986), 23-75.
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