Sui Truisms di Jenny Holzer

13 settembre 2012
Pubblicato da

di Alessandro Broggi

A partire soprattutto dagli anni ’60, molti artisti più o meno impegnati, concettuali e non, hanno iniziato a produrre opere che andassero oltre i supporti tradizionali della pittura e della scultura, utilizzando il video, l’installazione, la fotografia e ogni sorta di medium estraneo agli abiti dell’arte precedente. Altri, tra i materiali stessi della loro ricerca hanno spesso scelto parole e frasi della lingua naturale. In diversi casi, si è trattato di lavorare orizzontalmente, in un movimento sincronico che partisse dall’istanza sociale e dalla comunicazione viva, più che verticalmente rispetto alle forme disciplinari di un dato genere o mezzo. Dipingere paesaggi bucolici non rappresentava più la realtà, che era diventata urbana, telematica, industriale e commerciale.

Il paesaggio era fatto – sempre più – di cemento, segnali stradali, marchi di fabbrica, insegne, slogan pubblicitari e televisione (e, ora, di messaggi e discorsi sui telefoni cellulari, computer, ipod & ipad, kindle, eccetera). Illustrare situazioni d’evasione, della fantasia o della memoria significava assumere una posizione nostalgica e politicamente marginale. Si trattava, piuttosto, di consapevolizzare i modi di comunicazione alla base dei rapporti, le convenzioni e le convinzioni circolanti, e insomma gli stessi presupposti culturali di una società complessa, prodotti dal sistema dei consumi, dalle tecnologie e dai media, rendendoli visibili e manipolabili. “Quanto dobbiamo fare è accostare informazione a informazione, non importa quale. È così che diverremo consapevoli del mondo perché è quanto fa esso stesso”, scriveva Cage. Il filone concettuale si pose tra gli altri l’obiettivo, se così si può dire, di “un’arte che non recitasse più, ma che si mettesse a nudo” (Celant), e che “mettesse a nudo”, prendendo un messaggio, un’idea, un meccanismo o un contenuto culturale e mostrandolo in modo trasparente e senza residui.

È quanto fa l’americana Jenny Holzer, una delle principali artiste orientate al linguaggio, che presentò la sua prima serie, i Truisms, nel 1977-79. Quest’opera, che riprendo qui integralmente, ha come obiettivo l’analisi della forza del linguaggio e della sua capacità di veicolare messaggi. I Truisms (truismi) – il termine significa “verità ovvie” – sono una lunga sequenza di sentenze, lunghe una riga e ordinate alfabeticamente, per lo più presentate singolarmente o a gruppi, sui supporti più vari.

La lingua scelta dalla Holzer per questo particolare genere di aforismi ci ricorda che il nostro linguaggio è piano e diretto, che usiamo un vocabolario semplice per la maggior parte del tempo, a volte ripetendo parole e frasi importanti. Ma la particolarità dei Truisms sta nella fusione di due retoriche contrapposte: l’impulso passionale e irrazionale tipico del manifesto, e la razionalità fredda e di servizio della didascalia. Come il primo, la lingua dei Truisms è incisiva, assertiva, fattuale e programmaticamente calda; come la seconda, è denotativa, esplicativa, anonima, neutra e sgombra. Questo espediente, insieme alla mancanza quasi totale di pronomi personali, ha come effetto immediato l’indecidibilità della voce autoriale e la pluralizzazione dei punti di vista. L’ordine alfabetico, che nella successione completa dei Truisms dà adito spesso a vistose contraddizioni tra frasi vicine, rende ancora più evidente la volontà oggettivante e l’intenzione dell’artista di tagliare qualsiasi legame tra autore e testo. L’autore progettato dai testi della Holzer è infatti dappertutto e in nessun luogo – ma insieme stranamente imperativo e rigidamente ideologico. È questo lo scopo comunicativo: il fruitore, chiamato in causa in prima persona, si chiede da dove vengano queste frasi, chi le abbia pronunciate e che cosa significhino per lui. Tenendo in sospeso la figura dell’autore, il lettore viene così forzato a prendere posizione personalmente, a confrontarsi con un ventaglio di posizioni perentorie e compulsorie, che sintetizzano acutamente luoghi comuni e cliché circolanti. Molte di queste sentenze, abilmente costruite dalla Holzer, sembrano infatti frasi colte dalla strada, idee o pregiudizi ascoltati in metropolitana, slogan percepiti alla Tv, discorsi che ci avvolgono quando cuciniamo un pasto solitario o mentre aspettiamo alla fermata del tram. Ci restituiscono una versione del mondo quando la nostra censura interna smette di funzionare e il rumore di fondo dei discorsi fuori di noi ci appare come il nostro stesso pensiero. I Truisms ci mostrano cioè come fatti e concetti esterni a noi, spesso indotti dal sistema (=ideologia), vengono interiorizzati come pensieri individuali e monologhi interiori.

Il contesto di fruizione, pensato dall’artista per i Truisms, è principalmente proprio quello dei luoghi pubblici, e solo in seconda battuta quello degli spazi museali, delle mostre e delle gallerie d’arte. Al di fuori dell’ambiente protetto e schermato dell’arte, il loro impatto è infatti più forte, perché lì siamo più indifesi, naturalmente portati a leggere i messaggi che ci circondano non come oggetti estetici (finzioni) ma come messaggi funzionali, legati pragmaticamente al contesto comunicativo, al mondo reale e al nostro comportamento effettivo. Ecco perché la Holzer, per il testo dei Truisms e per quelli delle opere successive (si veda a riguardo la preziosa monografia edita da Phaidon, sulle cui analisi critiche si basano alcuni di questi ragionamenti) ha scelto siti e supporti pubblici (subdolamente) stranianti, come per esempio volantini, manifesti pubblicitari, cartelloni e poster stradali, placchette esplicative di bronzo posizionate sopra o accanto a fontane e monumenti, targhette commerciali, cappellini, magliette, confezioni di profilattici e gadgets vari, portiere dei taxi, panchine pubbliche, neon, scritte luminose, tabelloni per gli annunci aeroportuali o per il punteggio negli stadi di football americano, e infine – come per una celebre installazione a Times Square – led e nastri luminosi dove normalmente scorrono pubblicità e messaggi di servizio.

L’intento della Holzer è allora, in ultima analisi, quello di sorprendere l’uomo comune, chiamandolo prepotentemente in causa con stringhe veritative di comune esperienza e slogan aforistici essenziali, oggettivi e dal tono apodittico, presentati in contesti insospettati, laddove vigono automatismi percettivi legati ad altri codici di informazione, contemporaneamente ricodificando la pelle discorsiva dei luoghi della nostra contemporaneità e smascherando la pervasività del linguaggio dell’istituzione coll’impossessarsi del suo potere.

 

 

a little knowledge can go a long way

 

a lot of professionals are crackpots

 

a man can’t know what it is to be a mother

 

a name means a lot just by itself

 

a positive attitude means all the difference in the world

 

a relaxed man is not necessarily a better man

 

a sense of timing is the mark of genius

 

a sincere effort is all you can ask

 

a single event can have infinitely many interpretations

 

a solid home base builds a sense of self

 

a strong sense of duty imprisons you

 

absolute submission can be a form of freedom

 

abstraction is a type of decadence

 

abuse of power comes as no surprise

 

action causes more trouble than thought

 

alienation produces eccentrics or revolutionaries

 

all things are delicately interconnected

 

ambition is just as dangerous as complacency

 

ambivalence can ruin your life

 

an elite is inevitable

 

anger or hate can be a useful motivating force

 

animalism is perfectly healthy

 

any surplus is immoral

 

anything is a legitimate area of investigation

 

artificial desires are despoiling the earth

 

at times inactivity is preferable to mindless functioning

 

at times your unconsciousness is truer than your conscious mind

 

automation is deadly

 

awful punishment awaits really bad people

 

bad intentions can yield good results

 

being alone with yourself is increasingly unpopular

 

being happy is more important than anything else

 

being judgmental is a sign of life

 

being sure of yourself means you’re a fool

 

believing in rebirth is the same as admitting defeat

 

boredom makes you do crazy things

 

calm is more conductive to creativity than is anxiety

 

categorizing fear is calming

 

change is valuable when the oppressed become tyrants

 

chasing the new is dangerous to society

 

children are the most cruel of all

 

children are the hope of the future

 

class action is a nice idea with no substance

 

class structure is as artificial as plastic

 

confusing yourself is a way to stay honest

 

crime against property is relatively unimportant

 

decadence can be an end in itself

 

decency is a relative thing

 

dependence can be a meal ticket

 

description is more important than metaphor

 

deviants are sacrificed to increase group solidarity

 

disgust is the appropriate response to most situations

 

disorganization is a kind of anesthesia

 

don’t place to much trust in experts

 

drama often obscures the real issues

 

dreaming while awake is a frightening contradiction

 

dying and coming back gives you considerable perspective

 

dying should be as easy as falling off a log

 

eating too much is criminal

 

elaboration is a form of pollution

 

emotional responses ar as valuable as intellectual responses

 

enjoy yourself because you can’t change anything anyway

 

ensure that your life stays in flux

 

even your family can betray you

 

every achievement requires a sacrifice

 

everyone’s work is equally important

 

everything that’s interesting is new

 

exceptional people deserve special concessions

 

expiring for love is beautiful but stupid

 

expressing anger is necessary

 

extreme behavior has its basis in pathological psychology

 

extreme self-consciousness leads to perversion

 

faithfulness is a social not a biological law

 

fake or real indifference is a powerful personal weapon

 

fathers often use too much force

 

fear is the greatest incapacitator

 

freedom is a luxury not a necessity

 

giving free rein to your emotions is an honest way to live

 

go all out in romance and let the chips fall where they may

 

going with the flow is soothing but risky

 

good deeds eventually are rewarded

 

government is a burden on the people

 

grass roots agitation is the only hope

 

guilt and self-laceration are indulgences

 

habitual contempt doesn’t reflect a finer sensibility

 

hiding your emotions is despicable

 

holding back protects your vital energies

 

humanism is obsolete

 

humor is a release

 

ideals are replaced by conventional goals at a certain age

 

if you aren’t political your personal life should be exemplary

 

if you can’t leave your mark give up

 

if you have many desires your life will be interesting

 

if you live simply there is nothing to worry about

 

ignoring enemies is the best way to fight

 

illness is a state of mind

 

imposing order is man’s vocation for chaos is hell

 

in some instances it’s better to die than to continue

 

inheritance must be abolished

 

it can be helpful to keep going no matter what

 

it is heroic to try to stop time

 

it is man’s fate to outsmart himself

 

it is a gift to the world not to have babies

 

it’s better to be a good person than a famous person

 

it’s better to be lonely than to be with inferior people

 

it’s better to be naive than jaded

 

it’s better to study the living fact than to analyze history

 

it’s crucial to have an active fantasy life

 

it’s good to give extra money to charity

 

it’s important to stay clean on all levels

 

it’s just an accident that your parents are your parents

 

it’s not good to hold too many absolutes

 

it’s not good to operate on credit

 

it’s vital to live in harmony with nature

 

just believing something can make it happen

 

keep something in reserve for emergencies

 

killing is unavoidable but nothing to be proud of

 

knowing yourself lets you understand others

 

knowledge should be advanced at all costs

 

labor is a life-destroying activity

 

lack of charisma can be fatal

 

leisure time is a gigantic smoke screen

 

listen when your body talks

 

looking back is the first sign of aging and decay

 

loving animals is a substitute activity

 

low expectations are good protection

 

manual labor can be refreshing and wholesome

 

men are not monogamous by nature

 

moderation kills the spirit

 

money creates taste

 

monomania is a prerequisite of success

 

morals are for little people

 

most people are not fit to rule themselves

 

mostly you should mind your own business

 

mothers shouldn’t make too many sacrifices

 

much was decided before you were born

 

murder has its sexual side

 

myth can make reality more intelligible

 

noise can be hostile

 

nothing upsets the balance of good and evil

 

occasionally principles are more valuable than people

 

offer very little information about yourself

 

often you should act like you are sexless

 

old friends are better left in the past

 

opacity is an irresistible challenge

 

pain can be a very positive thing

 

people are boring unless they are extremists

 

people are nuts if they think they are important

 

people are responsible for what they do unless they are insane

 

people who don’t work with their hands are parasites

 

people who go crazy are too sensitive

 

people won’t behave if they have nothing to lose

 

physical culture is second best

 

planning for the future is escapism

 

playing it safe can cause a lot of damage in the long run

 

politics is used for personal gain

 

potential counts for nothing until it’s realized

 

private property created crime

 

pursuing pleasure for the sake of pleasure will ruin you

 

push yourself to the limit as often as possible

 

raise boys and girls the same way

 

random mating is good for debunking sex myths

 

rechanneling destructive impulses is a sign of maturity

 

recluses always get weak

 

redistributing wealth is imperative

 

relativity is no boon to mankind

 

religion causes as many problems as it solves

 

remember you always have freedom of choice

 

repetition is the best way to learn

 

resolutions serve to ease our conscience

 

revolution begins with changes in the individual

 

romantic love was invented to manipulate women

 

routine is a link with the past

 

routine small excesses are worse than then the occasional debauch

 

sacrificing yourself for a bad cause is not a moral act

 

salvation can’t be bought and sold

 

self-awareness can be crippling

 

self-contempt can do more harm than good

 

selfishness is the most basic motivation

 

selflessness is the highest achievement

 

separatism is the way to a new beginning

 

sex differences are here to stay

 

sin is a means of social control

 

slipping into madness is good for the sake of comparison

 

sloppy thinking gets worse over time

 

solitude is enriching

 

sometimes science advances faster than it should

 

sometimes things seem to happen of their own accord

 

spending too much time on self-improvement is antisocial

 

starvation is nature’s way

 

stasis is a dream state

 

sterilization is a weapon of the rulers

 

strong emotional attachment stems from basic insecurity

 

stupid people shouldn’t breed

 

survival of the fittest applies to men and animals

 

symbols are more meaningful than things themselves

 

taking a strong stand publicizes the opposite position

 

talking is used to hide one’s inability to act

 

teasing people sexually can have ugly consequences

 

technology will make or break us

 

the cruelest disappointment is when you let yourself down

 

the desire to reproduce is a death wish

 

the family is living on borrowed time

 

the idea of revolution is an adolescent fantasy

 

the idea of transcendence is used to obscure oppression

 

the idiosyncratic has lost its authority

 

the most profound things are inexpressible

 

the mundane is to be cherished

 

the new is nothing but a restatement of the old

 

the only way to be pure is to stay by yourself

 

the sum of your actions determines what you are

 

the unattainable is invariable attractive

 

the world operates according to discoverable laws

 

there are too few immutable truths today

 

there’s nothing except what you sense

 

there’s nothing redeeming in toil

 

thinking too much can only cause problems

 

threatening someone sexually is a horrible act

 

timidity is laughable

 

to disagree presupposes moral integrity

 

to volunteer is reactionary

 

torture is barbaric

 

trading a life for a life is fair enough

 

true freedom is frightful

 

unique things must be the most valuable

 

unquestioning love demonstrates largesse of spirit

 

using force to stop force is absurd

 

violence is permissible even desirable occasionally

 

war is a purification rite

 

we must make sacrifices to maintain our quality of life

 

when something terrible happens people wake up

 

wishing things away is not effective

 

with perseverance you can discover any truth

 

words tend to be inadequate

 

worrying can help you prepare

 

you are a victim of the rules you live by

 

you are guileless in your dreams

 

you are responsible for constituting the meaning of things

 

you are the past present and future

 

you can live on through your descendants

 

you can’t expect people to be something they’re not

 

you can’t fool others if you’re fooling yourself

 

you don’t know what’s what until you support yourself

 

you have to hurt others to be extraordinary

 

you must be intimate with a token few

 

you must disagree with authority figures

 

you must have one grand passion

 

you must know where you stop and the world begins

 

you can understand someone of your sex only

 

you owe the world not the other way around

 

you should study as much as possible

 

your actions ae pointless if no one notices

 

your oldest fears are the worst ones

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One Response to Sui Truisms di Jenny Holzer

  1. rmorresi il 15 settembre 2012 alle 14:12

    Viste/lette sue cose all’aeroporto di Amsterdam, dove scorrevano su lunghi tabelloni elettronici verticali e orizzontali: gran trip (come se riuscissero a mostrare l’effettiva trasparenza civile del ‘cittadino del mondo’ occidentale)



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