Jenny Holzer made her first xenon projection in 1996 as part of a collaboration with Helmut Lang for the Biennale di Firenze. As Lang would describe it, the text, Arno, was projected from a canoe club across the river onto the facade of a brothel. [The 19th/20th c. Palazzo Bargagli held the offices of Corierre della Serra, at least. That’s all I’ve found.]
In 1998 Jenny Holzer told Joan Simon that the text for Arno originated in a music video for Red, Hot + Dance, which was a 1992 AIDS/HIV fundraiser concert/album. Mark Pellington, the MTV producer/director she mentioned, had done an MTV segment on Holzer, but he was also involved in producing U2’s ZOO TV, which had a video wall full of Truism-like texts that kind of pissed Holzer off. Anyway, there are no Arno-esque texts in the Red, Hot video.
“The texts involve all the reasons to be naked or clothed — from sex to humiliation and murder,” said co-curator Ingrid Sischy to Amy Spindler. The Florence projection only ran for a few days in September, during the opening of the Biennale–and Pitti–but the text remained as LED columns in a Lucky Charms marshmallowy pavilion by Arata Isozaki, which was also where visitors could experience the fragrance Lang and Holzer developed together, that smelled, as they said often, like cigarettes, starch, and sperm.
[The six other pairings of artists & designers were: Tony Cragg & Karl Lagerfeld (lmao); Roy Lichtenstein & Gianni Versace; Julian Schnabel & Azzedine Alaia (which wut?); Mario Merz & Jil Sander (which, same, wtf); Oliver Herring & Rei Kawakubo (hmm); and Damien Hirst & Miuccia Prada (chef kissing fingers emoji).]
Holzer adapted the Arno text again for her 1998 nine-LED column permanent installation at the Guggenheim Bilbao. Catalan excerpts of it are also engraved in two large benches there now.
As we all know by now, a scrolling LED is a helluva way to take in a text, so it was interesting when Helmut Lang posted an image of the complete [English] text for Holzer’s Arno to Instagram last night. It turns out embedding it in a stream of emoji-filled comments read by a computer is also a helluva way to take in a text, but here we are.