Jenny Holzer: Benches

About the Exhibition

Benches by Jenny Holzer (b.1950, Gallipolis, OH) consists of six benches made out of black granite and white marble that are endowed with truisms.

Texts on the benches:

Bench 1
Top: “A man cant know what it’s like to be a mother / bad intentions can yield good results / decadence can be an end in itself / dependence can be a meal ticket / dying should be as least as falling off a log / if you have many desires your life will be interesting / if you live simply you have nothing to worry about / lack of charisma can be fatal / most people are not fit to rule themselves / self-contempt can do more harm than good / selfishness is the most basic motivation / selflessness is the highest achievement / thinking too much can only cause problems / trading a life for a life is fair enough / your oldest fears are the worst ones”

Side 1: “Alienation produces eccentrics or revolutionaries / change is valuable when the oppressed become tyrants”

Side 2: “Hiding your motives is despicable / the only way to be pure is to stay by yourself”

End 1: “Decency is a relative thing”

End 2: “Money creates taste”

Bench 2
Top: “A strong sense of duty imprisons you / absolute submission can be a form of freedom / artificial desires are despoiling the earth / drama often obscures the real issues / elaboration is a form of pollution / in some instances it’s better to die than to continue / it’s better to be a good person than a famous person / it’s better to be naïve than jaded / men are not monogamous by nature / myths make reality more intelligible / often you should act like you are sexless / talking is used to hide one’s inability to act / the idea of revolution is an adolescent fantasy / when something terrible happens people wake up / you are guileless in your dreams”

Side 1: “Being alone with yourself is increasingly unpopular / exceptional people deserve special concessions”

Side 2: “Violence is permissible even desirable occasionally / worrying can help you to prepare”

End 1: “Humanism is obsolete”

End 2: “Humor is a release”

Bench 3
Top: “Abuse of power comes as no surprise / class action is a nice idea with no substance / class structure is as artificial as plastic / eating too much is criminal / enjoy yourself because you can’t change anything anyway / inheritance must be abolished / it is man’s fate to outsmart himself / killing is unavoidable but is nothing to be proud of / mothers shouldn’t make too many sacrifices / much was decided before you were born / push yourself to the limit as often as possible / slipping into madness is good for the sake of comparison / the most profound things are inexpressible / there’s nothing except what you sense / you are a victim of the rules you live by”

Side 1: “It’s crucial to have an active fantasy life / stupid people shouldn’t breed”

Side 2: “You only can understand someone of your own sex / you owe the world not the other way around”

End 1: “An elite is inevitable”

End 2: “Murder has its sexual side”

Bench 4
Top 1:” Action causes more trouble than thought / ensure that your life stays in flux / even your family can betray you / government is a burden on the people / guilt and self-laceration are indulgences / knowledge should be advanced at all costs / private property created crime / revolution begins with changes in the individual / sloppy thinking gets worse over time / taking a strong stand publicizes the opposite position / the world operates according to discoverable laws / there are too few immutable truths today / using force to stop force is absurd / wishing things away is not effective / you have to hurt others to be extraordinary”

Side 1: “Confusing yourself is a way to stay honest / deviants are sacrificed to increase group solidarity”

Side 2: “Dreaming while awake is a frightening contradiction / teasing people sexually can have ugly consequences”

End 1: “Any surplus is immoral”

End 2: “War is a purification rite”

Bench 5
Top: “All things are delicately interconnected / anger or hate can be a useful motivating force / boredom makes you do crazy things / categorizing fear is calming / crime against property is relatively unimportant / disgust is the appropriate response to most situations / expiring for love is beautiful but stupid / freedom is a luxury not a necessity / grass roots agitation is the only hope / holding back protects your vital energies / low expectations are good protection / raise boys and girls the same way / random mating is good for debunking sex myths / recluses always get weak / you are the past present and future”

Side 1: “Manual labor can be refreshing and wholesome / monomania is a prerequisite of success”

Side 2: “People who go crazy are too sensitive / sometimes science advances faster than it should”

End 1: “Starvation is nature’s way”

End 2: “Words tend to be inadequate”

Bench 6
Top: “A relaxed man is not necessarily a better man / ambivalence can ruin your life / awful punishment awaits really bad people / children are the most cruel of all / children are the hope of the future / everyone’s work is equally important / faithfulness is a social not a biological law / fathers often use too much force / loving animals is a substitute activity / people won’t behave if they have nothing to lose / romantic love was invented to manipulate women / the idea of transcendence is used to obscure oppression / true freedom is frightful / unquestioning love demonstrates largesse / you don’t know what’s what until you support yourself”

Side 1: “It’s a gift to the world not to have children / nothing upsets the balance of good and evil”

Side 2: “People are boring unless they’re extremists / people who don’t work with their hands are parasites”

End 1: “Timidity is laughable”

End 2: “Torture is barbaric”



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