Students collaborate on Jenny Holzer commission

Students collaborate on Jenny Holzer commission

October 5, 2020

Emeline Boehringer (’21), Lexi Drexelius (’18), and Zahra Nasser (’21) testing the app for coding refinements.
Emeline Boehringer (’21), Lexi Drexelius (’18), and Zahra Nasser (’21) testing the app for coding refinements.

Today, the University of Chicago debuts a new public art commission by artist and alumna Jenny Holzer (EX’74), who during her time in the College enrolled in several art history courses, including “Baroque Portraits,” “Trends in Modern Art 1905-30,” and “Cityscape,” as well as art studio classes taught by Ruth Duckworth, Harold Haydon, and Vera Klement.

YOU BE MY ALLY propels academic discourse and the liberal arts into the public sphere, providing safe, collective, and meaningful experiences within the converging contexts of the pandemic, national election season, and calls for social justice. The text-based artwork features Holzer’s signature LED trucks as well as her first augmented reality (AR) project using virtual projections in the United States and her first work created in collaboration with a university’s students and faculty

Student participation has been a key component of this work from its inception. Over the course of the last academic year, students and faculty submitted excerpts from their Core class readings, from which the artist selected 29 quotes to incorporate into her work. The artist also invited all UChicago students to submit their own nonpartisan get-out-the-vote phrases for possible inclusion on the second round of LED trucks, and many art history students participated.

A total of 10 graduate and undergraduate students, specializing in fields ranging from art history and English to computer science and social work, have worked on various aspects of the commission, including testing code and developing curricula for K-12 and Core curriculum students. These have included Zsofia Valyi-Nagy and Maggie Borowitz, doctoral candidates in art history, Emeline Boehringer and Zahra Nasser, seniors majoring in art history, and Elizabeth Smith (BA’19 Art History). Project leadership has included Alexandra Drexelius (BA’18 Art History) and art history faculty member Christine Mehring.

For more information about the work and related remote programming, please visit the project’s website, and read The New York Times article and the UChicago News article.