As one of America’s most loved living artists since the 1980s, Holzer’s practice circles around language in order to question systems of power and authority in society. Since 2010, Holzer’s work has been focused particularly on modern conflict. On her first visit to Blenheim Palace, she became fascinated by the palace’s own military history; not only as the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, but also originally built as a reward to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, for military triumphs in the 1704 Battle of Blenheim. Holzer uses this legacy as a starting point to look at the timeless and universal theme of conflict, across time and countries.
Using technology, stonework, light projections, a virtual reality mobile app developed by Holition, and her celebrated LED light installations, Holzer engages with the historical precedents that have cemented Blenheim Palace’s enduring legacy, and offers descriptions of life during wartime, recounting real experiences of soldiers and civilians.
Text for the artworks is drawn from accounts gathered by The Not Forgotten Association, a British charity that supports service men, women, and veterans suffering from combat injuries and other related challenges. The Association provides entertainment, recreation, and community, putting the fun, enthusiasm, energy and enjoyment back into the life of those who have taken a knock for their country. Over fifty veterans from the NFA have participated in the exhibition, sharing their experiences, and reflecting on the effect of their service on their loved ones and on themselves.
Other contributors include are charities Save the Children, Human Rights Watch, and polish war poet Anna Swirszczynska.
For twelve evenings between 28 September – 10 October, the Palace played host to Jenny Holzer’s spectacular light projections On War. Projected onto the historic façade of the palace and on the nearby island nearby, this was Holzer’s most ambitious display to date.