THE SOUND OF SILENCE

ALFREDO JAAR

 

6 October- 5 November 2006

 

As part of Brighton Photo Biennial 2006 Fabrica hosted the European premiere of Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar’s The Sound of Silence, an installation focusing on the life of South African photojournalist Kevin Carter.

There was a single photographic image in Alfredo Jaar’s installation and this one image was only visible on the screen for a matter of seconds. When you entered Jaar’s installation, you entered a story: a story about an individual photograph and its impact but also a story about representation and its unequal effects. As the artist said: “It is a lamentation. It’s a poem that asks about ethics of what we (photojournalists) do when we shoot pain.”

Access to The Sound of Silence was carefully controlled. Upon entering the installation space, you were confronted with an unsettling narrative that raises questions about the limits of representation, of what can and should be represented and of the responsibilities not only of the individual photographer but of those who control the circulation and dissemination of the photographic image.

Jaar’s work raises questions about the relationship between photography and representation; in other words, between the medium and its political implications. In a context where reality television shows and web-casting purport to democratise the means of representation, Jaar’s practice is a timely reminder of the growing gulf between actual representation and its fake imitations.

Alfredo Jaar (Chilean, b. February 5, 1956) is a Conceptual and installation artist, and also works in architecture and film. He grew up on Martinique Island from the ages of six to 16, at which point he returned to Santiago, Chile, with his family. Jaar studied filmmaking at the Chilean-North America Institute of Culture, and architecture at the University of Chile. He moved to New York City after his graduation in 1981, at the height of Pinochet’s military rule. 

Jaar’s experiences in different regions influence his art. Many of his projects question the relevance of geographical boundaries, whose primary purpose is to serve the interests of exploitative and oppressive forces. One of his first public pieces was This is Not America (A Logo for America)(1987). This contentious project, which overlooked a US Army recruitment station, established the future direction of his other works. 

Jaar has become a respected installation artist whose photography, films, community projects, and artworks are featured in many museums, galleries, and public spaces worldwide. His work explores humanity’s outlook on images and art in general, and art’s limitations in representing significant events such as war, genocide, epidemics, and similar tragedies. 

Political activism resonates in many of his exhibitions that seek to address major geopolitical themes. The themes he addresses include the Rwandan Genocide, gold mining in Brazil, environmental pollution in Nigeria, and immigration issues. His images and photos in Geography=War (1990) incorporate stark contrasts, forcing viewers to rethink their ideas about geography and power. 

Jaar’s work has appeared in numerous exhibitions, including the biennials of Venice (1986 and 2007), São Paulo (1987 and 1980), Johannesburg (1997), and Moscow (2009). His artistic accolades include a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 1985, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Award in 1987, a MacArthur Fellowship in 2000, and Spain’s Premio Extremadura a la Creación in 2006. Jaar has created over 60 public interventions globally, and over 50 monographic publications examine his works. 

 

The artist currently lives and works in New York.

 

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