Jenny Holzer x Walt Whitman for NYC's First AIDS Memorial

Sullenly known as the “ground zero” of New York’s AIDS epidemic, the West Village’s St. Vincent Hospital is finally receiving a memorial for the 100,000 lives that have fallen to the disease. The remembrance, a canopy like structure positioned within the hospital’s newly constructed park is being designed by architecture firm Studio a+i, and will feature the highly anticipated textual art-piece by Jenny Holzer. Renowned for her large-scale installations projected on billboards, and her World Trade Center memorial, Holzer is the perfect candidate to illustrate a powerful message that represents yet another sorrowful moment in New York’s history.

Subject to review by the NYC Public Design Commission, Holzer’s piece will include lines from the infamous American wordsmith Walt Whitman. The verses will be taken from Whitman’s Song of Myself, a powerful poem that calls the reader to love themself, and to identify with every particle in the universe, even the dead. To Holzier as mentioned on the NYC AIDS Memorial’s website, “Whitman’s message of hope, of dignity in the face of death, of the glories of an embodied life, and of transcendence in the face of oppressiveness and tragedy, spoke to the requirements of the memorial and universalized them. Whitman was also a proud New Yorker, a poet of the people threaded through his city, a man whose work includes paeans to the metropolis that he thought represented the greatest realization of human diversity."

The memorial will feature a fountain and benches that sit beneath the foliage engulfed trellis, with the 8,992 lines of Whitman’s poem whirling from the fountain’s center. In terms of the artwork’s city-debut, the park-space will be ready for public use in the summer, but Walt Whitman’s words won’t make their paved appearance until December.

Click here to read Whitman’s ‘Song of Myself’ in it’s entirety

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