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  • NICHOLAS HOLMES: Jenny Holzer's

  • PROTECT PROTECT

  • focuses on works from the last 15 years.

  • For people who have been

  • following her career,

  • this exhibition may seem like

  • somewhat of a departure.

  • Holzer's primary material

  • has always been language.

  • She's put text on LED,

  • or light-emitting diode displays,

  • t-shirts, hats,

  • light projections on buildings

  • and other unconventional places.

  • Now her LED displays have morphed

  • into more elaborate sculptures,

  • and she's been making paintings.

  • The overall visual effect

  • of the exhibition PROTECT PROTECT

  • is seductive.

  • The gallery walls are awash

  • in colored light,

  • and text moves hypnotically

  • across the sculptural surfaces.

  • The work draws you in, and in doing so,

  • brings you closer to the work's

  • often disturbing content.

  • Since 2004, Holzer has drawn her text

  • from declassified

  • government documents.

  • The earliest of the documents relate

  • to the Reagan administration's support

  • of Saddam Hussein in the early 1980s.

  • The latest take us through

  • the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • She obtained these

  • through the National Security Archive

  • and the American Civil Liberties Union.

  • Both of these groups use

  • the 1966 Freedom of Information Act

  • to bring government documents

  • into the public record.

  • Holzer made a strategic decision

  • to make documents into paintings,

  • reproducing them, unaltered,

  • in oil paint on linen.

  • She'd noticed that people

  • give paintings more time, attention,

  • and value than other art forms.

  • She wanted people to look

  • at these documents in the same way.

  • Like most of her document paintings,

  • "Request for Approval Green, White"

  • is a bit hard to read.

  • Holzer has enlarged the original,

  • letter-sized page, which was already

  • a poor quality print

  • after having been photocopied, scanned,

  • or faxed a number of times.

  • She's reproduced a memo containing

  • a kind of interrogator's wish list.

  • It asks permission

  • to conduct twenty-hour interrogations,

  • to subject prisoners

  • to enforced grooming,

  • specifically shaving their beards,

  • and to deprive them of things

  • that give them comfort,

  • like religious objects.

  • Holzer accessed the documents through

  • the American Civil Liberties Union,

  • or ACLU,

  • and the National Security Archive.

  • Kate Doyle is a senior analyst

  • at the National Security Archive.

  • DOYLE: The National Security Archive,

  • despite its somewhat sinister name,

  • is not a government agency.

  • It is not the National Security Agency.

  • It is not the National Archives.

  • It is actually a nonprofit,

  • nongovernmental organization

  • that was founded in the 1980s

  • by journalists and analysts,

  • investigators to, first and foremost,

  • promote and defend

  • the public's right to know.

  • HOLMES: Working with

  • the National Security Archive

  • and the ACLU, Holzer looked at

  • about 40,000 documents

  • including autopsy reports, policy memos,

  • statements by American soldiers

  • and other products of the bureaucracy

  • supporting the war.

  • This painting, "Jaw Broken,"

  • reproduces a statement

  • by an Iraqi detainee who has had

  • his jaw broken during an interrogation,

  • and ends with his declaration

  • of forgiveness of his abuser.

  • The content of the documents

  • Holzer has used varies widely,

  • but most of them

  • have one thing in common:

  • they've been edited or redacted

  • by government censors, blackened out

  • so that the content is illegible.

  • Again, Kate Doyle.

  • DOYLE: Although the Freedom

  • of Information Act provides people

  • with a legal tool to request information

  • from their own government,

  • there are exceptions to the kind

  • of information that the government

  • will or can provide.

  • Those exceptions, or exemptions,

  • are specified in the law,

  • and they might be for reasons of,

  • for example, national security.

  • B1, the National Security exemption

  • in the Freedom of Information Law,

  • is one of the key exemptions

  • that are used in denying us information

  • that we request to government agencies.

  • And those black marks will cover

  • anything from the most sensitive

  • intelligence information such as

  • the names of sources of intelligence,

  • or the methods that are used

  • by the government to gather intelligence,

  • whether it be wiretapping or spying.

  • HOLMES: Holzer has also

  • used government documents

  • in LED sculptures, and in some cases,

  • these too are redacted.

  • The text in the sculpture "Purple"

  • comes from accounts

  • of criminal proceedings against members

  • of the armed forces.

  • She's reproduced the redacted areas

  • with X's.

  • Often, the history

  • of a document's declassification

  • is visible on its surface.

  • The painting

  • "The White House 2002 Pink, White"

  • reproduces a memo George W. Bush

  • sent to his administration

  • detailing his position

  • on the Geneva Convention regarding

  • the treatment of prisoners of war.

  • In the lower left corner,

  • we can see that the document

  • was partially declassified in June 2004,

  • and not fully declassified

  • until October 2004.

  • DOYLE: When you are talking

  • about policies that walk the line

  • between what's legal and what's not,

  • immediately, even in the moment

  • of the creation of those policies,

  • comes the cover-up, comes the attempt

  • by the administration to protect itself.

  • And what you're seeing

  • when you see documents with text

  • that has been released

  • over a long period of time

  • is you're seeing the "push me, pull you"

  • of public demand.

  • When we first request

  • a document from the government,

  • we might get back a highly classified,

  • highly censored text.

  • We then have the right

  • to appeal that decision,

  • and that will usually produce

  • a less censored text.

  • We will have more information.

  • And if we really care about this issue,

  • and most of these issues