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Corporation makes "art"


The University of Pennsylvania bought itself a Jenny Holzer. No, that’s not right. The University of Pennsylvania paid Jenny Holzer and put her name on a walkway with benches where Hill Field at 33rd and Chestnut used to turn to mud under soccer cleats.

A Jenny Holzer has unsettling twisted aphorisms inscribed in lights or incised in metal or stone.

The incised stone is there, in the form of granite benches and curbstones. But this piece has no aphorisms, nothing twisted. It’s straight Penn.

The piece does exactly, I would think, what Penn was hoping. It offers quotations that shed historical light on women’s education at Penn and the role of women in society. It was created in honor of the 125-year anniversary of women’s admission to the university. And it has not a rough edge to ruffle a single feather or raise a hackle.

So Jenny Holzer’s main role was as editor, the person who selected which quotations were used. Is this what the artist’s role has become? A cat’s paw for corporate intent?

Landscape architects designed the space, including the bridge crossing the swale (only landscape architects talk about swales). The walkway was a given in terms of its orientation. The allee of trees was a given.


The “art” was endless words, barely legible quotations from past presidents, past professors, past students, etc.

For succinctness, legibility and poetry you had to look to the “no” sign (shown): No Skateboards/ No In-Line Skates/ No Roller Skates/ No Bicycles/ No Vehicles/In This Area

For art, you had to go home and make a painting.