VIGIL: Jenny Holzer’s Statements on Gun Violence Loom Large at Rockefeller Center

Artist Jenny Holzer is known for making public statements that can’t be ignored, and her latest project brings stark messages about gun violence to the facades of New York City’s Rockefeller Center. For “VIGIL,” a three-night installation that took place October 10-12, Holzer projected poems by teenagers impacted by school shootings, texts from the compilation “Bullets into Bells: Poets & Citizens Respond to Gun Violence” and stories from “Moments That Survive,” a collection by Everytown for Gun Safety.

Presented in collaboration with the public arts organization Creative Time, “VIGIL” leaves onlookers no choice but to absorb and grapple with these messages and testimonies. The project aims to center the voices of those directly affected by gun violence, shifting away from using faceless statistics to emphasize the human toll.

“Projected onto one of the most iconic landmarks in New York City, VIGIL speaks to the massive impact gun violence has not only on individuals, but the very fabric of communities and cities,” reads Creative Time’s curatorial statement on the project. “The text encroaches on the facades and windows of these buildings, surrounding the viewer and enveloping the city in messages of light. Through the project, the city itself is transformed.”

“The scrolling words of Holzer’s projections demand that the audience reads them. This strategy denies passive engagement, as viewers internalize these messages by hearing the text in their own voice. It is not possible to let these words just wash over. Since 1991, Holzer has used this technique to address such issues as domestic violence, war, and the corruption of power. Throughout her career, she has aimed to bring to light that which is hidden. In her ongoing project It Is Guns, trucks equipped with LED screens share pointed texts by the artist similarly addressing gun violence. Holzer expands upon these issues in VIGIL, magnifying her messages from the street to the cityscape.”

See more photos of the installation at Gothamist.

Photos by Lauren Camarata