When art inspires art; how Braiding Sweetgrass influenced a climate movement

Milkweed Staff — 10/09/2023

American conceptual artist Jenny Holzer is no stranger to addressing the biggest issues of our times through art. In the 1970s, her Truisms project elevated political slogans in public spaces across New York City, and a few decades later her Redaction Paintings series staunchly opposed the abuse of incarcerated people of Guantanamo Bay. As recently as 2020, Holzer again set to work with the noble cause of inciting political awareness and activism in America as part of a project called VOTE FOR YOUR FUTURE. But Holzer was far from finished—and just a year later, she set her sights on the larger-than-life problem of climate change, while also grappling with the question, “Can art be part of the solution?”

Her most recent project to explore this concept, HURT EARTH, was designed to coincide with the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), and projected the words of over 40 climate activists, from Sir David Attenborough to Greta Thunberg to Milkweed Editions’ own Robin Wall Kimmerer onto landmark buildings across the UK. Spontaneous pop-up performances continued throughout the month, demanding the urgent attention of renowned climate activists, politicians, and passerby alike. And in amplifying the voices and platforms of visionaries like Indigenous educator, botanist, and author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Holzer reminds us that art has as much of a place within the scientific world as transformative literature, and Indigenous wisdom. Keep scrolling below to see some of Holzer’s most gripping installations using quotes from Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass as inspiration.


Text: Robin Wall Kimmerer
©2021 Jenny Holzer, member ARS