posted by on 2006.05.24, under Uncategorized

Welcome to the first installment of Artful Wednesdays. (as coined by Jeremy.)
Yes I realize on the west coast it is not quite Wednesday yet (47 more minutes), but I couldn’t wait…

Tonight I enjoyed a lecture at UCLA’s Hammer Museum by Alfredo Jaar. Originally from Chile, he lives and works in NY but produces projects all over the world. Most notable is the Rwanda Project, a series of 20 projects in response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the western world’s racist choice to ignore it. The talk was part of an ongoing symposium at UCLA On the Subject of Violence, and Jaar commented that he realized in preparing for this talk that most of his work is about violence, while also recognizing several art historical references in his work. His website has a very nice intro worth watching – an homage to Yves Klein’s Leap Into the Void.

Jaar began as an architect, then switched to filmmaking because architecture depended too much on capital. Then after hearing several filmmakers’ answers to what profession they would have if they were not filmmakers, and 9 out of 10 of them said “architecture” he decided to go back and finish his degree. Eventually he was told that he was an installation artist because he was trying to combine film and architecture.

Like an architect, he approaches every project with a “program” part of which is to create a “powerful balance between information and spectacle.” When asked if he saw a kinship between the failure of both art and journalism to make change he responded that perhaps he was a “frustrated journalist.” Ultimately, he sees himself as both an activist and an artist and said that while growing up in Chile during dictatorship there was no difference between the two practices. “We have no choice but to try and change things.”

Perhaps art reaches too small an audience to truly change things, however Alfredo Jaar’s work is quite extraordinary in its ability to both inform and at least move viewers towards compassion, if not action.

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