jenny holzer's provoking words shine on frescoes at palazzo della ragione in bergamo

designboom recently met jenny holzer for the opening of her exhibition ‘the whole truth’ hosted at bergamo’s palazzo della ragione, gamec’s stunning venue in the upper town. the exhibition is open from may 30 to september 1st, 2019 and marks the acclaimed artist’s return to italy.

all images © designboom



holzer’s work features her signature artistic medium: the written word. regarding her use of writing as creative expression holzer said, ‘language can be a brutal instrument when used for evil purposes, but there’s also the lyrical alternative’. the series of light-projected text touches timely themes such as identity, gender, and dialogue, in particular addressing the ongoing migrant crisis. the thought-provoking string of text alternates between italian writings and english words from multiple authors.




in this occasion, the sizable texts and phrases are projected as bold, white typography contrasting against the absolute darkness of the space. the letters shine on the palazzo’s ancient walls and paintings, sometimes even bringing forward the vivid frescoes behind them. the dialogue presented between the architecture and holzer’s subversive lines is a poetic paradox that adds depth to the exhibition.




a circle of nine marble benches engraved with writing lie at the center of the exhibition room. when entering, the furniture seems placed in a ritual-esque configuration, while the words carved in the stone remind visitors of tombstones or other more permanent forms of language. when asked about the benches, holzer said, ‘the first time I focused on benches was in a cemetery. when seeing stone, there are obvious cemetery connotations. also stone seen in a library with quotes of ancient philosophers…it is a material with writing that has to be celebrated and commemorated’, inviting viewers to reflect on the engravings.




the stone benches invite the audience to take a seat and become truly immersed in the projected videos. ‘I wanted to provide the possibility to come more than once, to make them want to stay, to sit down’, holzer explained. the smooth marble reflects the bright projections on the walls adding another layer to each piece of furniture.




the exhibition evokes critical reflection with its political undertone, and changes the atmosphere inside the ancient palazzo. holzer’s compelling collection of texts once again reminds visitors of the powerful weapon that is the written word. 








exhibition info:


artist: jenny holzer

exhibition name: tutta la verita (the whole truth)

curator: lorenzo giusti

location: gamec palazzo della ragione, upper town, bergamo

duration: may 30 – september 1, 2019

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