Limerick, Ireland
Alfredo Jaar, The Cloud, 2015, plaster bandages, balloons, polyester fibre, 600 x 600 x 100 cm. Photo: Miriam O'Connor, courtesy of the artist.

Alfredo Jaar

b. 1956, Chile

In installations, photographs, films, and community-based projects, Alfredo Jaar explores the public’s desensitization to images and how art has the ability to represent and to reflect on severe and merciless historical events, such as genocides, epidemics, and famines. Jaar’s work bears witness to military conflicts, political corruption, and imbalances of power among industrialized and developing nations. Subjects addressed in his work include, for instance, the holocaust in Rwanda, gold mining in Brazil, toxic pollution in Nigeria, and the conflicting issues related to the border between Mexico and the United States. Many of Jaar’s works can be seen as extended meditations or elegies.

To art critic and journalist Coline Milliard, Jaar said: ‘I strongly believe that artists are thinkers, as opposed to object makers. My working process is 99 percent thinking, and 1 percent making. That thinking process is at the core of what I do. And this process is always triggered by a specific site or issue. In my career I have been incapable of creating a single work of art out of nothing. That is why I am not a studio artist; I define myself as a project artist. I try to propose, with my projects, a creative model that responds to the particulars of a given situation. That model can then be projected into the world. I believe that this is what artists do—with each project we propose a new conception of the world, and that new conception is a new way of looking at the world. That is why I believe that we create models of thinking the world.’

These are the clouds about the fallen sun,

The majesty that shuts his burning eye.

– W. B. Yeats, 1916

The Cloud (2015) contemplates the hopeful voyage of millions of people who travel across the land every day in search of a better life. As we witness Europe’s anxious reaction to the current influx of migrants to its shores, Jaar’s work offers a dark, ominous and yet poetic vision of this phenomenon – it represents a watchful cloud in the sky over Europe. The cloud itself embodies water but in solid form and shape that moves across the land. It is a reminder that everything is interconnected and that confinement is not a solution. Clouds are a model of freedom. Clouds are the visible mass of otherwise invisible matter, which will ultimately evaporate in time. Clouds are impermanent. Arising from a reality of oblivion and rejection, this cloud over Europe is like an omen, an imminent downpour of new realities that we must face.

Alfredo Jaar is an artist, architect, and filmmaker who lives and works in New York City. Jaar’s work has been shown extensively around the world. He has participated in the Venice Biennale (1986, 2007, 2009, 2013), São Paulo Biennale (1987, 1989, 2010), as well as documenta in Kassel (1987, 2002). He became a Guggenheim Fellow in 1985 and a MacArthur Fellow in 2000.

Exhibitions of his work were held at the: New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York; Whitechapel, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome; and Moderna Museet, Stockholm. A major retrospective of his work took place in summer 2012 at three institutions in Berlin: Berlinische Galerie, Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (NGBK), and Alte Nationalgalerie. In 2014 Kiasma – Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki hosted the most extensive retrospective of his career. Jaar has realized more than sixty public interventions around the world, and more than fifty monographs have been published about his work. His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and Guggenheim Museum, New York, the MCA in Chicago, MOCA and LACMA in Los Angeles, Tate in London, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, the Centro Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebaek, among others.

(Text: EVA 2016, Still (the) Barbarians, catalogue)


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