AKA by Jenny Holzer is a portfolio, encompassing five etchings in a black silk-covered portfolio case. The five heavily redacted pages are drawn from the FBI’s investigative files on British author Eric Arthur Blair, aka George Orwell (1903–1950). Former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover suspected Orwell of being a Communist and regarded his literature as potential threats to the US government. In fact, the author’s novels were of a clearly anti-communist and anti-fascist nature, exposing the dehumanizing effects of social and political oppression under totalitarian regimes. With AKA, Jenny Holzer sheds light on the irony of government scrutiny of Orwell’s activities and the subsequent censorship of files relating to Orwell.
Jenny Holzer is a political artist and activist, best known for her text-based public art projects. In her practice Holzer explores how language is used as both a form of communication and a means of concealment. She has a long-held interest in the power and language of advertising, which has resulted in the main focus of her work being the delivery of ideas via words in public places. These projects, which she installs on billboards and buildings, are easily mistaken for advertising, and are aimed at agitating and disturbing. With phrases such as “protect me from what I want” and “abuse of power comes as no surprise”, Jenny Holzer ponders issues of consumerism, death, decay, and abuse. In doing so, both the message and the medium are significant. On why she uses language as her main form of communicating her message Holzer said: “I used language because I wanted to offer content that people — not necessarily art — people could understand.” Jenny Holzer is also known for her printmaking practice, in which she also encourages audiences to think critically about the power of language, that which is spoken, and that which remains unspoken.
American, b. 1950, Gallipolis, Ohio, based in New York.