Despite skipping the red carpet and opting not to perform during the ceremony, Lorde still stole the show at Sunday night’s 2018 Grammy Awards. The singer wore a stunning bright red Valentino dress with diamond cutouts in the bodice and a full-length skirt covered in fluffy bits of tulle, which she matched to her bold scarlet lipstick and red metal flask. What you might not have noticed, however, was the message hidden on the back of the gown.
In the middle of Lorde’s back, attached to her dress with coordinating red string, was a white card printed with the entirety of “Untitled (Rejoice!),” one of American artist Jenny Holzer’s Inflammatory Essays from the late 1970s. According to the Art Institute, the poem reads: “Rejoice! Our times are intolerable. Take courage, for the worst is a harbinger of the best. Only dire circumstance can precipitate the overthrow of oppressors. The old and corrupt must be laid to waste before the just can triumph. Opposition identifies and isolates the enemy. Conflict of interest must be seen for what it is. Do not support palliative gestures; they confuse the people and delay the inevitable confrontation. Delay is not tolerated for it jeopardizes the well-being of the majority. Contradiction will be heightened. The reckoning will be hastened by the staging of seed disturbances. The apocalypse will blossom.”
Holzer is known for using text to interrogate issues inherent in society and in rhetoric and text itself. Her Inflammatory Essays were first produced in 1979, and were originally wheat pasted anonymously around New York City. Unlike Holzer's better known Truisms series, Essays are believed to more bluntly convey Holzer's own thoughts. Though, the texts were deliberately constructed to avoid any specific references.
The fact that the essay is as relevant and time today when its sewn into the back of Lorde's red carpet gown as it was almost 40 years ago when it was first pasted around New York City only illustrate's Holzer's original point.
Holzer has employed fashion in her work before, and, indeed, just collaborated with designer Virgil Abloh on both a recent menswear presentation and on a t-shirt to benefit Planned Parenthood.
Lorde, for her part, has increasingly upped her own interest in the art world. She commissioned contemporary painter Sam McKinniss to create the cover for her nominated album Melodrama (which, of course, includes a cut called "The Louvre").
__Related: Take a Tour of Artist Jenny Holzer's Studio