The University of Chicago will debut a new public art commission by world-renowned artist and alumna Jenny Holzer (EX’74), YOU BE MY ALLY, premiering Oct. 5 on the UChicago campus and worldwide through a web-based augmented reality app. The text-based artwork is Holzer’s 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.
A pioneer of art as social intervention, Holzer received UChicago’s Rosenberger Medal in 2019 in recognition of her wide-reaching impact on public art. Running through Nov. 22, her artwork will project academic discourse into the public sphere, drawing on texts from UChicago’s Core curriculum—the distinctive multidisciplinary curriculum that serves as the common academic foundation for all College students.
YOU BE MY ALLY will feature 29 excerpts from historically significant readings from the Core curriculum, selected in collaboration with UChicago students and faculty, including works by distinguished writers W. E. B. Du Bois, Helen Keller, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Friedrich Nietzsche, Plato, Mary Shelley and Virginia Woolf. The title of the project itself is an excerpt from If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho, a translation by classicist Anne Carson that is among the Core readings. Starting Oct. 5, viewers can access a free, web-based AR app to virtually project and animate these texts on the facades of architecturally significant UChicago buildings. In addition, app users will be able to project the title quote onto their surroundings anywhere in the world. On Oct. 30, additional quotations will become available to project anywhere.
“We are thrilled to host this innovative new work from artist and alum Jenny Holzer,” said David Levin, senior advisor to the Provost for Arts and the Addie Clark Harding Professor in Germanic Studies, Cinema and Media Studies, and Theater and Performance Studies. “The project not only explores and expands the possibilities of virtual projection, but it also makes innovative and imaginative use of texts that are foundational to the UChicago education—putting significant authors in conversation with the public and the present in a new way.”
Text selections from the Core Curriculum also will be featured on LED trucks driving throughout the UChicago campus, South Side and downtown communities on Oct. 5-6, bringing the experience to a diverse public audience in an unexpected manner.
Another component of Holzer’s work will incorporate original texts in support of nonpartisan get-out-the-vote efforts. These texts, selected by Holzer from various sources including submissions by UChicago students, will be displayed on LED trucks driven throughout the city on Oct. 24 and Oct. 30.