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What we have allowed to happen to Aleppo is a disgrace and we all should be ashamed. We have facilitated the destruction of a an enitre country, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, including women and children. We have allowed war crimes to go on unchallenged and yet, it continues. It needs to end now.
LINK -> Email to TD’s
It’s near the end of September and I think this will be a good time to update you on where I’m at. I have just begun my postgraduate studies in the University College Dublin at The Clinton Institute in American politics and foreign policy. It is an unbelievably fascinating course, especially the classes on which I learn about the foundation of American political tradition and the foundation of American foreign policy. It gives me a much better understanding of the American psyche and why you always hear about American exceptionalism.
As it is September, that means I’m back coaching rugby. It just kicked off and we have played two games, one was a cup and the other was a league game. We have lost both games, although we have greatly improved game after game. We have narrowed our losing margin and improved our overall team performance an
d individual player development which is always a great thing. We are going into our second league game this weekend against an old rival and we hope that we can get together this week and put in a good win and propel ourselves up to the top of the league. We know that the months ahead will get dark, cold and wet and these are the tough months, they require a certain type of commitment and without that commitment these months can easily become the worst months of the season. If we can fight through these months with a number of wins, it will set us up very well for the new year.
Book 1 – I\m Just about to begin reading ‘George C Herring: from colony to superpower’ it’s a required reading for my studies.
Book 2 – Noam Chomsky, Imperial Ambitions Which I have being reading on and off over the summer.
Thanks for reading, liking and sharing. I’ll try follow up with a mid October post.
Finally!!!! after one year doing my portfolio and three more years in the National College of Art and Design, my undergraduate studies are now complete.I am now a holder of a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Fine Art.
My next step is to go to the University College Dublin and study American Politics and Foreign Policy. As far back as I can remember I have had two major interests, the first is art and the second is politics. I decided that I would study both, my undergraduate in Art and my postgraduate in Politics.
So here I am, looking for some opportunities in employment that will cater for the flexibility that the postgraduate requires. Ideally the work would be relevant but sure you can’t ask for too much. I had an interview for a job yesterday and now I have to wait to hear back. I just hope I can take it and mange my postgraduate studies and the job together, otherwise I’ll be screwed.
Wish me luck.
This is my Thesis. Please have a read and share. Thanks
1.1 An introduction to Alfredo Jaar. 6
1.2 A short description of Installation and Conceptual Art. 7
1.3 A brief introduction to Socially Engaged Art. 8
2.1 A brief history of Rwanda, post-World War 1. 11
2.2 The Rwanda Project (1994-2000). 13
2.3 Rwanda, Rwanda (1994). 13
2.4 Untitled – Newsweek (1995). 15
2.5 Real Pictures (1996). 16
2.6 The eyes of Gutete Emerita (1996). 17
3.1 Lament of the Images (2002). 18
3.2 The Privatisation of Images. 20
Figure 1. Jaar, Alfredo. “Newsweek”. 2012. 15
Figure 2. Jaar, Alfredo. “Newsweek”. 2012. 15
Figure 3. Jaar, Alfredo. “Newsweek”. 2012. 16
Figure 4. Jaar, Alfredo. “Real Pictures”. 2012. 16
Figure 5. Jaar, Alfredo. “The Eyes of Gutete Emerita”. 2012. 17
In this essay I will be giving a short introduction into installation art and conceptual art and how they can be a way to highlight global injustice in today’s world. I will explore Alfredo Jaar’s Rwanda Project 1994 – 2000 which developed as a result of his visit to Rwanda following the aftermath of the genocide in 1994, where it is estimated that nearly one million people had died. Contemporary society has become saturated with images and media files which are shared online through social media websites and instant messaging apps while real and credible news can become tainted by disinformation and amateur journalism. I will examine how Alfredo Jaar presented an alternative representation to the dominant media imagery of the genocide, his art work highlighting global injustice in a word saturated with imagery.
In this chapter, I will introduce the artist then I will then outline the concepts behind installation art and conceptual art, where the form of Alfredo Jaar’s work can be situated. Lastly I will give a brief insight into the field of socially engaged art, and how it is a practice that positions social and political issues at its core with reference to artists Rick Lowe, Kristof Wodiczko, Jeremy Deller and What’s the Story? Collective 2007 – 2011.
1.1. An introduction to Alfredo Jaar
Alfredo Jaar is a Chilean born artist. He attended Instituto Chileno-Norteamericano de Cultura, Santiago in 1979 and Universidad de Chile, Santiago in 1981. He is currently based in New York City in the United States. Alfredo Jaar works in film, photography, installation art and community-based projects. His work crosses many boundaries and social issues, from famine, Americas hegemony, border issues and of course, his work in relation to the Rwanda genocide in 1994. Alfredo Jaar’s artistic practice takes the form of written statements, declarations, definitions and invitations.
My interest in Alfredo Jaar arose when I visited Berlin in 2011. Alfredo Jaar had work showing at, Kultur, Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin, Germany, while I was attending a conference on socially engaged art, where I presented past work from my involvement in a collective known as the What’s The story? Collective. During this trip, I personally became drawn to Alfredo Jaar, not just because of the way in which his work highlighted certain issues, but also because of the way he situated and presented it in a gallery space. The exhibition, which mainly took the form of installation, it was beautifully upsetting, the emotional impact, feeling justified and necessary without the need for images depicting death and war i.e. shock images.
1.2. A short description of Installation and Conceptual Art.
Installation art is defined as a broad term applied to a range of arts practice which involves the installation or configuration of objects in a space, where the totality of objects and space comprise the artwork…. (IMMA, 2015)
An artist whose practice could be described as installation art is Carl Andre and his work Equivalents (1966), when removed from the larger work it is known as Equivalent viii (1972) commonly known as Bricks. This work consisted of 120 bricks, set out in a formation on the ground, layered as two levels with no adhesive. His work is sculptural, minimalists piece situated as an installation. It was purchased by the Tate Modern in London, received much criticism and many angry letters before it went on show. When the exhibition opened in 1972, although a controversial show, it brought in an audience that was radically mixed in reaction. His work is a sculptural, minimalist piece situated as an installation. Carl Andre is one of the founders of minimalism. Carl Andre seems to be concerned with space and raw material in their simplest form. In an interview on the financial times website with Julie Belcove, Carl Andre said ‘useless construction, and that is what sculpture was’. His work represented his life and who he was, it had no ‘secret meaning’ (Ft, 2013). but like much conceptual art, his work required the viewer to think beyond what as placed in the gallery.
Conceptual art refers to a diverse range of artistic practice from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, where emphasis was placed on the concept or idea rather than the physical art object…
…Artists sought the means to think beyond the medium-specific aspects of traditional art forms, such as originality, style, expression, craft, permanence, decoration and display… (IMMA, 2015).
Conceptual art traced back to the 1960’s, but also finds its roots in Dadaism, which was a literary and artistic movement born in Europe at a time when the horror of the first world war was going on. A group of artists, writers and intellectuals were upset that modern European society would allow the war to have happened so they protested by not participating in art and the art world. A very well-known example from this time is Marcel Duchamp’s fountain (1917) which was used, not for its practical use but as a means to challenge and raise many questions. What is art? Who decides what art is? These questions came to the surface when the Society for Independent Artists (to which Duchamp was a founder and member) when he refused to show the Fountain (1917) at the Grand central Palace on the opening night in 1917. While dadaism can be seen historically as key to conceptual and installation art history, it is also cited as an important movement of influence to socially engaged art.
1.3. A Brief Introduction of Socially Engaged Art.
The National College of Art and Design runs an MA in socially engaged art, describing it as ‘an artistic practice that requires a meaningful interaction with communities of place and/or interest and with broader social or political intentions at its core’ (NCAD, 2015). An example of socially engaged art is Rick Lowe’s work, Project Row Houses (1993) which is based in Houston’s Northern Third Ward in the United Sates. Project Row Houses (1993) was established to help revitalize the community that was and is ‘plagued by severe unemployment, early pregnancy, crumbling services and drug trafficking’ (Creative Time. 2013). Project Row Houses (1993) features in events organised by Creative Time, an organisation that engages and funds socially engaged art projects and works based on three core values ‘art matters, artist’s voices are important in shaping society, and public spaces are places for creative and free expression’ (Creative Time. 2015). Project Row Houses (1993) is just over two decades old. It is comprised of 22 houses, which houses a gallery, office space including exhibition space and residency space, a park and low-income residential and commercial spaces. It also provides residential spaces for young mothers and residency space for artists. Rick Lowe uses his strength in art to create a community of place who can participate, discuss, learn and bring about change.
Prior to my entry into NCAD, I was part of was What’s the Story? Collective (2007 – 2011), a project that could also be described as socially engaged art. The collective was an interdisciplinary group consisting of an artist, young adults and a youth worker based in Rialto, Dublin. The collective’s work was based on a collection of anonymous stories about power and powerlessness and took the form of live reading events involving An Gardaí Siochana, a six-week residency and exhibition, and the publication of a 24-page newspaper titled Policing Dialogues Review, which gave personal and analytical perspectives on the project. We also developed a training programme which is to be implemented as part of the induction course for future trainee Gardaí allocated to the Dublin South Central division. For me, this is a good example of socially engaged art practice in Ireland, which was led by the participants, highly political and resulting in agreements about policing specific neighbourhoods.
As with Project Row Houses (1993) and What’s the Story? Collective (2007 – 2011), artists such as Krzysztof Wodizcko and Jeremy Deller take on political and social issues in their work. Wodizcko’s public projection work, gives a voice to those who have been pushed to the margins of society like war veterans, homeless people and people of violence, examples: Hiroshima Projection (1999), Abraham Lincoln: War Veteran Projection (2012) and the Homeless Project (1988). While Jeremy Deller’s work Conversations about Iraq (2009) used a burnt out car to attract discussion about the Iraq war. The work travelled across the United States and was accompanied by an Iraqi citizen and an enlisted American Soldier. Again, art, dialogue, place and space, come together under what is often described as socially engaged art. It is my opinion that the work of Alfredo Jaar and in particular the Rwanda Project (1994 – 2000) can be described as socially engaged and conceptual art while also taking the form of installation art.
In this chapter I will introduce the context of Rwanda and the Rwanda genocide. I will introduce five art works, that form part of the Rwanda Project (1994 – 2000). The Projects will range from 1994 to 1996 starting with Signs of Life (1994), then onto Rwanda Rwanda (1994), Real Pictures (1996), Newsweek (1996) and The Eyes of Gutete Emerita (1996).
2.1. A brief history of Rwanda, post-World War 1.
During the First World War Germany lost possession of Rwanda and the territory was then placed under Belgian administration. In the 1950s a time of decolonisation, tensions increased in Rwanda. On one side were the Hutu majority gaining momentum and resisting the democratisation was the Tutsi establishment on the other. In 1959 there was a violent uprising by the Hutu’s which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people. Thousands of people were displaced and fled to the neighbouring countries. History states this was the start of the Hutu peasant Revolution lasting three years and leading to the end of Tutsi rule and increased ethnic tensions. Rwanda gained independence in 1962.
Following independence, exiled people in neighbouring countries staged attacks on the Hutu government leading to retaliatory attacks from the Hutu government. This violence lead to a large number of refugees. On October 1, 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Force (A political and military group founded in Uganda, comprising mainly of exiled Tutsis) launched a major attack on Rwanda with 7,000 fighters. The government label all Tutsi people accomplices using their propaganda machine. Through the use of the radio, they spread rumours leading to increased ethnic tensions amongst the population. In 1993 a peace treaty was signed. Soon after the signing of the treaty, evidence emerged that elements of the Hutu majority were planning a campaign to exterminate Tutsi people and moderate Hutus.
On 6 April 1994, a plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down. On that same day killings started in Rwanda, initiated by the presidential guard of the killings of Tutsi people. Roadblocks were established by Hutu militia and assisted by military personnel to identify Tutsi people. The ethnic killings were compounded by TV and radio in Rwanda which blamed the Rwandan Patriotic Force (RPF) for the plane crash that killed both the President of Rwanda and the President of Burundi. Following the death of the president, assassinations of both Hutu and Tutsi leaders took place. This continued with several weeks of violent massacres against mainly Tutsi and moderate Hutu people. A depleted United Nations force, inaction by the United Nations Security Council lead to many more deaths and a prolonged genocide. On 22 June 1994 the French led force authorized by the United Nations Security Council mounted a humanitarian mission. Killings in Rwanda continued until July 4 1994 when the Rwandan Patriotic Force took military control of the entire territory of Rwanda. It is now estimated that nearly 1,000,000 people were killed in the genocide and between ‘150,000 and 250,000 women were also raped’ (Un.org, 2015). Following the genocide during the trials in the mid to late 90s, the court also tried three media owners accused of using their respective media to incite hatred and genocide. The court convicted a suspect for rape as a crime against humanity and a crime of genocide, the first international court to do so.
2.2 Rwanda Project (1994-2000).
In 1994 Alfredo Jaar visited Rwanda. He travelled to the capital Kigali. The city of Kigali was the epicentre of the genocide. Jaar began to collect stories from people. While collecting these stories he came across an old post office, the post office still had some postcards in stock so Alfredo Jaar bought up the remaining postcards, 200 or so in total. The postcards showed images of Akagera National Park which were taken by tourists in Rwanda. Using these postcards Jaar wrote the names of the survivors on the postcards like so:
IS STILL ALIVE!
IS STILL ALIVE!
IS STILL ALIVE! (Signs of Life. 1994)
Alfredo Jaar then posted the postcards to a number of his friends and colleagues from a post office in Uganda on his way out, as the postal service in Rwanda was not in service this was the beginning of a piece of work that would become known as Signs of Life, (1994). Where Jaar was finding immediate ways to highlight the war that he was witnessing.
2.3 Rwanda, Rwanda (1994)
In Rwanda Jaar photographed everything wherever he went. This lead to a collection of over 3000 photographs at the end of his trip. While Jaar felt it was important to record everything in this way, he also felt compelled to capture the words and stories of people he met;
For me, what was important was to record everything I saw around me, and to do this as methodically as possible. In their circumstances a good photograph is a picture that comes as close as possible to reality. but the camera never manages to record what your eyes see, or what you feel at the moment. The camera always creates a new reality. I have always been concerned with the disjunction between experience and what can be recorded photographically. In the case of Rwanda, the disjunction was enormous and the tragedy unpresentable. This is why it was so important for me to speak with people, to record their word, their ideas, their feelings. I discovered that the truth of tragedy was in the feelings, words, and ideas of those people and not in the pictures. (Jaar, 2006)
The lack of imagery used his work RWANDA, RWAND (1994) was a direct result of how tough and photojournalistic the photographs were that he had taken in 1994 in Rwanda. In Malmo, Sweden, he was offered a number of light boxes around the city to display the images but declined to do so, instead he put in the words RWANDA RWANDA around the city. Jaar thought ‘A simple sign, in the form of an insistent cry, would get their attention’ (Jaar. 2006).
Jaar has mentioned in a video on Galerie Lelong website that ‘we have become numbed and they seem not to affect us anymore because we are producing billions of images every second and most of these images are not interesting’ (Galerie Lelong. 2006). That is evident today with the large number of refugees coming from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and North Africa. Thousands of images of hardship, riots at borders in Hungary and Death. One image gave a face to the refugee crises, young boy, Aylan Kurdi which was taken of him on a beach after his body had washed ashore in Turkey when his family made a journey across the Mediterranean to enter Europe. For a time, there didn’t seem to be many images coming through of the hardship the refugees faced but one could argue that the stream of images was so much that that they became blurred and unseen or as Jaar has said ‘…most of the images are not interesting’ (Galerie Lelong. 2006). Referring back to Alfredo Jaars work in Sweden with Rwanda Rwanda (1994), you can understand why he avoided the use of photojournalist images and instead refer to the simplicity of text.
2.4 Untitled – Newsweek 1995.
|Figure 1. Newsweek. 1995|
|Figure 2. Newsweek. 1995|
Alfredo Jaar’s Untitled – Newsweek, Highlights the role of the media during the genocide and more specifically, the Newsweek magazine in the United States. The work which consists of the front page of the magazine over the period of the genocide. Below each image is a sentence or a short paragraph that tells the viewer what is happening in Rwanda at the time of the published magazine and it includes the death toll thus far. As the genocide continued, the death toll rose because of the failure of the international community to act. The lack of attention of the international community on Rwanda was reflected by Newsweek failing to inform their audience of the horrors in Rwanda, instead they continued to feed them celebrity related news and consumption lead articles. Figure 1 and 2 highlight the lack of coverage Newsweek gave to the genocide.
The magazine cover on the right (figure 3) was published
|Figure 3. Newsweek. 1995|
on August 1st, 15 days after the end of the widespread genocide, for which it is estimated that nearly one million people had been killed. Alfredo Jaar’s work brought into question the responsibility and ethical position of the media throughout he genocide, for which, similar comparisons can still be made this day with regards to current conflicts.
2.5 Real Pictures 1996.
|Figure 4 Real Pictures. 1996.|
In 1995, in the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, Jaar displayed his images in a piece named Real pictures. It consisted of 60 images that represented the genocide. However, rather than showing images, he put the them in black boxes and stacked the black boxes one on top of another. By stacking the boxes in the installation. Jaar created a monument. On the top of each box, written in white was a description of the image that lay inside that box. The work created a non-image installation, that bears witness to what is impossible to present. When I previously saw this work in 2012 in Berlin I was taken aback by it. The hidden images were much stronger than I expected and as I read the descriptions on the boxes I was hit suddenly with strong emotions that made me incredibly frustrated and angered by what had happened nearly 20 years ago and the lives that were lost. The media in North America and Europe were highly criticised for their lack of coverage of the genocide. As Noam Chomsky said in his book how the world works ‘the general population doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that It doesn’t know’ (2012. P. 78). This is exactly how the media corporations work.
2.6 The Eyes of Gutete Emerita 1996.
|Figure 5. The Eyes of Gutete Emerita, 1996.|
In 1996, Alfredo Jaar produced another powerful piece as part of his Rwanda Project (1994 – 2000). The piece is named: The eyes of Gutete Emerita. As you enter the space there is text on the walls telling you the story of Gutete Emerita. A very visual part of this piece are the thousands of images of Gutete Emeriti’s eyes, they are piled upon a white light table. It is said that the work has no narrative but rather it is the eyes of a survivor who has witnessed an unimaginable systemic ethnic cleansing. Gutete not only witnessed the murder of her fellow country men and women but also the murder of her husband and two sons. Talking about the recent acquisition of The eyes of Gutete Emerita (1996), Katherine Hart says ‘It is one of the most important works of art about war and violence that has been created in the last thirty years’ (2006). Jaar offers the viewer a moment away from the image saturated society and to see things differently by not showing war and violence. but instead he has stocked the imagination of the viewer and challenged their perceptions.
In this chapter I will highlight the privatisation of historical images and the online saturation of images in contemporary society. Alfredo Jaar’s work which is titled Lament of the Images (2002) informs the viewer that many millions of images have become privatised. Images that have historical importance. Then I will talk about the way in which he has situated his work and how he offers an alternative.
3.1. Lament of the Images (2002).
As chapter two shows, Alfredo Jaar’s refusal to produce media like images of horror has led to him turning the lens on what the survivor witnesses and the stories and experiences of those who are living through war. Another project of his that evidences this process is Lament of the Images (2002). In one room there are three dark panels with text written in white. The first panel informs the viewer of how
Bill Gates had purchased and archived historically important images, approximately 17 million images in 2001. As the text reads on the panel the collection includes images of the wright brothers in flight, JFK Jr saluting his father’s coffin, important images form the Vietnam war, and Nelson Mandela in Prison (2002).
The text continues near the bottom and mentions:
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft owns two other photo agencies and secured the digital reproduction rights to works in many of the world’s art museums. ‘At present, Gates owns the rights to show (or buy) an estimated 65 million images’ the images are said to be buried in a vault in an old limestone mine in Pennsylvania in the United States. (Lament of the Images 2002)
The second panel is about Nelson Mandela and his time on Robin Island in prison. It is more specific, its information is about the prisoners and how they would be taken to the limestone quarry and made to work in the heat. The light from the sun and the brightness of the limestone lead to Nelson Mandela having damaged retinas and that ‘it had taken away his ability to cry’ (Lament of the Images, 2002).
The third and final panel goes into detail and explains that just prior to the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the United States had purchased all rights to satellite imagery of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries. The panel explains:
It produced an effective white-out of the operation, preventing western media seeing the effects of the bombing, and eliminating the possibility of independent verification or refutation of government claims (Lament of the Images, 2002).
On a digital audio recording in MOMA, Jaar explains what the work is about ‘let there be light, I want to see… (2002)’ as he continues Jaar is talking about truth and justice. He ends this sentence by saying ‘it is the absence of images’ (2002).
What we have here is Alfredo Jaar visually telling us that private companies and the United States military have purchased the rights to images, images considered important on historical grounds but also important in terms of refuting the claims of the US war in Afghanistan and possible crimes committed. Through a decade long engagement with the Rwandan genocide and the media’s coverage of it, Alfredo Jaar responded as an artist, working to create work that would highlight such terror without producing typical images. His work also draws connections between powerful countries such as USA and their role through media and state intervention in the Rwandan genocide.
3.2. The Privatisation of Images.
The Rwanda project (1994 – 2000) was an attempt to communicate an atrocity without actually showing the photojournalistic pictures that we have come to see so much of in our interconnected world. With the dominance of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter with a combined active user base of 1.9 Billion (Statistica, 2016), images from crises such as war, famine, genocide and natural disasters are seen at a higher rate than that of the days of print media thanks to rapid sharing of photos, videos and articles. Because of this image saturation generation, I believe people have become somewhat desensitised to such images because of the pace at which they are shared around the world. Not only do we have the problem with rapid sharing, we now have a global games industry which makes billions of dollars a year with war games, such as the Call of Duty franchise which has earned $11 Billion worldwide since 2003 (ign.com). Central to these games are life images, further de-sensitising the Western population to imagery of war. A study carried out by professor Shahira Fahmy of the University of Arizona and her colleagues carried out an experiment to explore if the manipulation of the graphicness of war imagery impacted policy beliefs, attitudes and moods of individuals. In the experiment, ‘They found no significant differences in higher compared to lower levels of graphicness in perceived severity of war or stronger policy perceptions. There also were no differences in mood across graphicness conditions…’ (2011)
In the book The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies (Barthes, 1997), Genevieve Serreau talks about the affect or lack of affect that Shock Photos at Galerie d’Orsay had on the viewer.
We are in each case dispossessed of our judgement: someone shuttered for us, reflected for us, judged for us; the photographer has left us nothing-except a simple right of intellectual acquiescence: we are linked to these images only by a technical interest; over indicated by the artist himself, for us they have no history, we can no longer invent our own reception of this synthetic nourishment, already perfectly assimilate by its creator. (1997. P. 71).
Jaar’s work aims to inform the viewer. He has occupied the public and private sphere through interventions such as Signs of life (1994) and Questions Questions (2008). In the book Agonistic Politics and Artistic Practices, Chantal Mouffe talks about Hegemonic Intervention, and how ‘Alfredo Jaar’s artistic interventions chime with the hegemonic approach in several ways’ (2013, p. 94). – In sociology ‘when socially powerful people use their influence to convince less powerful people it is in their best interest to do what is actually in the most powerful people’s best interest, that’s hegemony’ (Sociology in Focus, 2012). Alfredo Jaars work Questions Questions (2008) is mentioned in the book and how it was an alternative to traditional advertisement in Milan which was majority owed by former Italian Prime Minister and media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi. By buying up the advertisement from Berlusconi in Milan, Alfredo Jaar replaced the old advertisements with question’s like ‘DOES POLITICS NEED CULTURE?’ and ‘IS THE INTELLECTUAL USELESS?’ (Mouffe. 2013, p. 95). This is an alternative to the traditional media and advertisement the general public see. Using the existing system, Alfredo Jaar can highlight the problem rather than opposing it with different means.
Many activists today prefer to oppose the establishment externally and believe by engaging with the establishment (exhibiting in museums or public institutions) they are somehow propping it up, similar to Dada and how he believed the ‘art world’ was complicate and part of the establishment. Noam Chomsky mentioned in a talk that he is part of the staff at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) since the 1950’s and how that it is funded by the department of Defence but yet he continuously lectures about the wrongs of US foreign policy. He does go on to say ‘the way to change them is from the inside’ (Chomsky. 2014). Again, in the book Agonistic Politics and Artistic Practices, Mouffe references the Yes Men, who describe themselves as people ‘who Impersonate bigtime criminals in order to publicly humiliate them, and otherwise giving journalists excuses to cover important issues’ (theyesmen.org). She describes their practice as ‘counter-hegemonic intervention’ (2013. p. 98) and goes on to say that ‘by putting Artivist forms at the service of political activism, these Artivist practices represent an important dimension of radical politics’ (2013. P. 99). The saturation of images in today’s society seemed to have influenced Alfredo Jaar’s creative process. His work Lament of the Images (2002) we are told about the privatisation of images yet in his work he doesn’t use images. Question’s Question’s (2008) clarified to me why this is. Just like Duchamp’s Fountain (1917), Jaar’s use of conceptualism was to raise questions in regards to Rwanda, the media, private companies buying up millions of images and once again to challenge the viewer.
In chapter One I introduced the concept of installation and conceptual art with reference to Carl Andre and his work Equivalents VIII (1966). I then introduced the field of socially engaged art and gave an example of this by referring to Rick Lowe and his work Project Row Houses (1993) and What’s the Story? Collective (2007 – 2011) which I was a member. I finished the chapter highlighting the important influence of Dadaism and Duchamp in the roots of these movements in art and I positioned the work of Alfredo Jaar within these frames.
In chapter two, I gave a brief history of the state of Rwanda following the first world war and how the genocide came to being and then introduced a number of works from the Rwanda Project (1994 – 2000). The projects ranged from 1994 to 1996. I began by detailing Alfredo Jaar’s trip in Rwanda which was the time he developed Signs of Life (1994), then I talked Rwanda Rwanda (1994), Newsweek (1995), Real Pictures (1996) and The Eyes of Gutete Emerita (1996).
In Chapter three I highlighted the privatisation of historical images Lament of the Images (2002) and how the online community has become saturated with images, referencing how Facebook and Twitter have a monthly active user base of 1.9 billion people. I explained how this saturation has led to people having ‘no significant differences in higher compared to lower levels of graphicness…’ (Fahmy, 2013). This result leaves us with no alternative but to find different means to communicate atrocities.
This thesis is suggesting a number of points. The first point: Art doesn’t have to be non-political to be liked, it can be aesthetically beautifully and useful. The second point: Free access to material is very important in today’s society, it has become too easy to only see one side of a story, biased or leading information. The internet has created a great way to communicate but at the same time we need to be vigilant, not only about the information we do see but the information we don’t get to see. My third point: The use of the non-image takes away that idea of a shock factor and allows the viewer to be consumed in the conceptual and to find their own shock within the work. I found this when I viewed Alfredo Jaars work in Berlin, no image was necessary but the concept, the structure and the information worked well. That day, I felt art had served a purpose higher than itself, it was useful.
In closing, I would like to draw on contemporary artist Tania Bruguera’s suggestion that ‘we have to put Duchamp’s urinal back in the restroom’ (2011). Through my exploration of the work of Alfredo Jaar and his use of art as a means to challenge global injustice, I believe in the power of art as a real alternative to media representation of war and terror. It is time for art to be useful again.
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- Katherine Hart. 2006. ALFREDO JAAR, THE EYES OF GUTETE EMERITA.
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It is clear that when politicians talk about creating a middle class, what they actually mean is that by creating a middle class, they in turn create a society where the majority of the people are more concerned with the latest technology, fashion, cars and other luxurious items. This majority become depoliticized and reelect those political leaders that keep the gravy train on the tracks. This is what we now know as a stable society . Within this society, fractures begin to appear as wages flat line, growth begins to slow down and unemployment increases. At this point people begin to wake up to the fact that their lives have not been fulfilled and the only thing they have to show is negative equity, shiny watches and whitened teeth.
In 2008 when the financial system crashed, homes were repossessed, job losses were a daily occurrence and suddenly the divisions in society that were hidden beneath piles of money were revealed.
Fast forward to 2015 and the US presidential primaries/caucus begin and not only are the democrats and republicans poles apart but inside the democratic party you also have two candidates who are both supposedly on the left and yet you’d think one was a liberal republican. Senator Bernie Sanders is on the left of the political sphere and a self described Social Democrat. He campaigns for free or affordable health care and Education, higher taxes for the rich and better financial regulation. Hilary Clinton on the other hand, when she speaks, I get the same sense that she is running for the office of President for the same reasons Mitt Romney ran. Both have done so much in their lives but yet they haven’t been able to clinch the top position. Hilary, like Mitt is a careerist and she will do whatever she can to get into office. She will flip flop on policy and move to the left to increase her chances.
In the republican camp, you have an idiot called Donald J Trump. He is a failed businessman, the least innovative person I have come to know, a bigoted racist who, like Hilary and Mitt only wants to be elected because
it is the highest CEO position a careerist could want. He has become the presumptive nominee for the republican party because he has played to the fears of the electorate.
Like all politicians in the Presidential Race of 2016, they have pounced on the divisions of the people, they have separated and dominated their worries, fears and hatred to try and win a political race.These hatreds have been compounded by the likes of Donald J Trump, labeling immigrants as one of the sole reasons for Americas problems. You also have politicians today, trying to reverse laws which protect those who have been marginalized i.e. The Bathroom Bill.
The fact is, these one liners hang around long after the headline in the newspapers are forgotten and are used by extremists around the world to fuel hate and violence. Each and every time hatred is shared as a view or policy position by someone who demands a lot of media attention, under the guise of freedom of speech, it builds up an manifests itself in violence. Just because some things have changed for the better it doesn’t mean everything is OK. Hate has reared it’s head many times. When coupled with lax gun laws you pay witness to such atrocities like the mass shooting which occurred at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. This wasn’t some crazed lunatic, his hatred was influenced and compounded by the likes of the religious extremists group ISIS but also by politicians who share similar views about the LGBTQ community. When you have elected representatives speaking out against the LGBTQ community, what you are getting isn’t only a policy position but also fuel to the fire. The reason these people are elected is because oftheir backward polices and views. The Orlando atrocity was a homophobic terror attack as described by Owen Jones on a Sky News segment to which the host refused to call it exactly what it was.
The simple fact is, capitalism as a financial system, it may be OK for some but to build your society around a financial system will only create much bigger and deeper problems down the road. What we are seeing is the rise of nationalism and patriotism (whatever they are) across Europe and North American and those who will suffer are minority groups.
What’s the solution? well one stepping stone would be for the Democrats in the USA to elect Bernie Sanders as the Nominee and for them to unite around him and defeat Donald J Trump in the general. Another move would be for the Republicans to wake up and defeat Trump internally, his success would mean that the Republicans would lose future elections. The United States as a global leader needs to be united under the leadership of a progressive like Senator Sanders and for once, not lead as an economic power but as a moral and just power.