Bowdoin College Museum of Art

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Inflammatory Essays

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Inflammatory Essays

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Jenny Holzer


Inflammatory Essays

Creation Date


Medium & Support

offset lithograph on paper


10 in. x 10 in. (25.4 cm. x 25.4 cm.)

Credit Line

Gift of David P. Becker, Class of 1970

Accession Number



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Conceived in 1979, Inflammatory Essays convey dogma, extremism, and fanaticism. An homage to the creative and destructive capacity of the manifesto, the “essays” are in fact short and standardized: 100-word paragraphs of twenty lines each, printed in the same font on colorful paper. Holzer produced a pastiche of taboo-breaking texts (unrelated to her personal convictions) in response to a variety of topical and polarizing issues of the day. In 1982, she wheat-pasted them individually in public spaces around Manhattan, where they would confront unsuspecting pedestrians who, over time, would recognize in their standardized format a larger effort. Together, Inflammatory Essays stage an ambivalent relationship to hard-edged ideology, at once showing the danger and absurdity of fanaticism but also honoring the crucial role of ideological commitment in making change happen.
Ellen Tani
Assistant Curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

Portfolios: OLD_FEATC|EDUC2221_181025|Fay|Speech and Protest in America   FEAT|Highlights on View   FEAT|Contemporary Art