Artist Jenny Holzer told The Art Newspaper: “Maybe Trump will be impeached again—or the board can be an impeachment tombstone.”
On 5th February 2020 U.S President Donald Trump was acquitted on charges of soliciting aid from the Ukraine to increase the chances of re-election in 2020. Explicitly, Trump was accused of investigating the democratic candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for $400m in military aid for the Ukraine. The day before this, Nancy Pelosi ripped up Trump’s State of the Union speech behind him stating that it was the “nicest thing” she could do given the circumstance as his speech was not “dignified or truthful”.
Words matter. And Trump has, “the best words”. But in a time where Twitter and its 280 character limit is the President's preferred method of addressing his people, words have begun to hold a whole new power in U.S history. Interpretation has never been more ambiguous.
Donald Trump is known for his sometimes obscure use of the English language. From ‘Covfefe-gate’ to ‘Tim Apple-gate’, Trump has always defended his use of the English language and regularly dismisses some of the things that we may term ‘mistakes,’ as our own misinterpretations. The most notable of which occurred in Helsinki in 2018, while Trump held a joint press conference alongside Russian president Vladimir Putin. Commenting on possible Russian interference within the 2016 election, President Trump said, “I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.” Trump later retracted this during a live broadcast from the White House where he offered that he thought there was a “need for some clarification,” and that, “it should have been obvious, I thought it would be obvious,” that what he actually intended to say was, “I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t, or why it wouldn’t be Russia.” In the hands of the World’s most powerful man, a simple misuse of the affirmative form, can be a very dangerous thing.
Jenny Holzer is a conceptual artist who is most well-known for working with text in public spaces, delving into what it means to use language in order to control, as well as to communicate. Holzer has used a multitude of mediums throughout her career from large scale projections, to printed t-shirts. But, since 1996 the work she’s created has consistently used text at its centre stage. Holzer explained, “I used language because I wanted to offer content that people—not necessarily art people—could understand,”. This in turn not only elevates the voices of injustices but it also enables an accessible narrative for everyone.
In this polarizing time Holzer has taken on the subject of Donald Trump and his impeachment. She has chosen to work with Skateroom Company for a second time. Holzer previously worked with this company to create aluminium skateboards to help fund AIDS awareness campaigns. The new commission includes 25 marble and 100 wooden skateboards that simply say “Impeach”.
The narrative created by the current president of the United States is one of confusion. Truth is out and ego is in. But, when this happens there is an effect not dissimilar to double thinking. George Orwell introduced this idea in his novel, 1984. It teaches people to believe two contradictory statements in order for people to lose faith in the objective truth, in turn exerting power by distorting reality.
Holzer’s “Impeachment tombstone” is a direct reaction to Trump's words throughout his presidency but particularly around his impeachment. There is no confusion. She is saying: We see you. We know what you're doing with language, and we won’t be here to give it life. When asked why Holzer created the work she stated,“Some moments should never be forgotten, some moments deserve to be set in stone. Make America Righteous Again.”