Alfredo Jaar: 25 Years Later

Alfredo Jaar: 25 Years Later

Goodman Gallery, London is currently presenting a selection of works from 25 Years ago Alfredo Jaar: 25 Years Later from the Rwanda Project, 1994-2000, in commemoration of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. The seminal series has been exhibited around the world, from Finland to Brazil, and now marks its UK debut.

The Chilean-born, New-York based artist, architect and filmmaker is one of the most uncompromising and compelling artists working today and an important artist of his generation dealing with issues around social justice.

According to late curator Okwui Enwezor “Alfredo Jaar’s work represents one of the most developed commitments by a contemporary artist in the blatant embrace of the structural link between ethics and aesthetics, art and politics”.

Jaar has been working at the forefront of contemporary thinking concerning human rights violations, migration and political and social unrest for over thirty years. His practice responds to news stories around the world and asks viewers to reconsider the power of images through a renewed process of looking and absorbing.

In 1994, in the face of what he described as “the criminal, barbaric indifference of the so-called world community”, Jaar travelled to Rwanda to witness the horrific aftermath of one of history’s most violent conflicts. Three months prior, an estimated one million Rwandans had been systematically killed during one hundred days of civil unrest. The artist dedicated six years to this project in which he seeks to bring attention to personal stories to pay tribute to the victims of the genocide.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is an installation titled The Silence of Nduwayezu, which comprises one million slides featuring a pair of eyes in close-up. The eyes belong to Nduwayezu, a 5-year-old Tutsi boy who Jaar met at a refugee camp in Rubavu. Like many Rwandan children, Nduwayezu had witnessed the killing of his own parents, a trauma so deep it affected his ability to speak.

“The installation tangibly represents the steadily escalating number of Tutsis killed in the massacre by showing one million identical slides of Nduwayezu’s eyes piled high on a giant light table. […] By borrowing Nduwayezu’s eyes and making them stare at us as if we were gazing in a mirror, Jaar reminds us of the silence of the international community – the absence of images – that exacerbated the calamity and consequences experienced by the people of Rwanda. […] The Silence of Nduwayezu fills the information void left by the silence of the international community, yet at the same time, it is also a meditative gesture, casting doubt on the ability of photographs to ever relay the enormity of raw human experience, or to make it part of the viewer’s world.”

Untitled, (Newsweek), 1994, 17 light boxes with colour transparencies

In Rwanda, 1994, a series of postcards of the United Nations in New York are intervened with LETRASET, calling further attention to the world’s lack of reaction to the genocide.

This exhibition is dedicated to Okwui Enwezor (1963-2019) and runs till January 2020.

Over the course of his career, Alfredo Jaar has realised over seventy public interventions around the world and has participated in Venice Biennale (1986, 2007, 2009, 2013) and Sao Paulo Bienniale (1987, 1989, 2010) as well as Documenta (1987, 2002). Jaar’s work can be found in collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate, London, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; M+, Hong Kong, among others. In 2018, he received the Hiroshima Art Prize. As of September 2019, Jaar’s The Garden of Good and Evil has been placed on permanent display at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, United Kingdom.

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