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To the 69-year-old artist Jenny Holzer, words are a defense against violence and a sign of alert she sends to the world watching.
Virgil Abloh, who is a master of putting his creative messages on the streets, also believes in the endless power of words. He has repeatedly quoted Holzer in his works in hopes of touching and awakening more people. When the two joins hands in what many consider as a very political move, fashion onlookers watch with much anticipation.
Jenny Holzer is perhaps a contemporary artist who is most renowned for the use of texts in her artwork. She is widely known for projecting poems onto the walls of the Venetian Palace, the Krakow Castle and the San Francisco City Hall as a way of breaking the fourth wall. You might also remember her as the artist who put up slogans on electronic billboards in Times Square, New York, to capture the doubts and contradictions written across the faces of each passerby. For over 40 years, Holzer has juxtaposed words against urban landscapes, putting the truth in every corner of the modern world.
In June 2017, Virgil Abloh invited Jenny Holzer to collaborate with him on Off-White’s Spring/Summer 2018 collection, as well as the brand's very first men’s fashion show in Florence. Abloh explains that his invitation is not abrupt and groundless. “The Washington Women's Parade in early 2017 made me realise that my social circle is still largely dominated by male voices. I need to present from a women’s perspective." Holzer's text-based creative expressions aptly coincides with Abloh's interest in words, typography and declarations. Holzer said that she and Abloh hit it off in no time. "When I proposed that we discuss sensitive political topics, he had no doubts or fears, but simply started to create."
FEAR IS THE MOST ELEGANT WEAPON
The two collaborated the modern way, via email, text, and their assistants. The result is a collection that is more thought-provoking than ever. Off-White’s SS18 fashion show invite sees a fluorescent orange tee printed with “I’ll Never Forgive the Ocean” – a line from Iranian poet Omid Shams who is now in exile – coupled with a set of life jacket instructions. Many of the show’s guests arrived sporting their rescue-themed tees, which were strong allusions to the many lives lost when people tried to get from one place to another.
Together, Holzer and Abloh creates an immensely powerful work of art that openly talks about immigration and refugees, while mourning the victims who have lost their lives to such tragedies. In Abloh’s own words, he didn’t want to do “fashion for fashion’s sake”. With his gift of a voice in the 21st century – with over a million followers on Instagram – the designer has spoken. With such a provocative collection, Abloh motivates his audience to see, to question, to analyse, and to let the truth speak for itself.