Alfredo Jaar uses photographs like an architect uses bricks. For an architect bricks are components of a plan to express the functional aesthetics of shape and form. For Jaar photographs become components in installations he creates to express his ideas about global political issues. As architects select their materials from building suppliers, Jaar often selects his images from photo agencies. Like the architect, the challenge that fuels Jaar's passion and tests his ingenuity is the expression of accessible and provocative ideas from understated materials and procurable images that are common ingredients of our complicated world. Jaar's work ignites the imagination and inflames our conscience, surpassing statements about shape and form. He drives to the very heart of our rational desire for a more world wide humane way of life.
Sheer Conviction extends and refines the artist's compelling observations of exploitation that he has fashioned into photo-based installations and exhibited from Kassel, West Germany to San Palo, Brazil. Large photographic transparencies installed in light boxes have become a central trademark in Jaar's recent work. In Sheer Conviction, he combines the light box devices with anonymous images of military might and civilian protest to form a mixture that is as eloquent as it is disturbing. In this site specific installation six double-sided light boxes measuring eight feet high, twenty inches wide and ten inches deep hang from the ceiling, bisecting the rectilinear gallery into equal parts. The drawing on the cover of this brochure approximates the scale of the light boxes. The color reproductions on each page are the photographs seen on each side of the boxes.
The final element that completes the piece, heightens its strength and builds on its overall impact is the audience. Viewers must interact with the piece —walk between the light boxes from protesting civilians to dour-faced military zealots. Where do I stand? Which side am I on? Who is on the other side? what am I up against? What shall I do? the audience must respond to these questions as participant and observer, ruthless oppressor and hapless victim. We must decide what side we're on, our silence speaks against our beliefs —we must come forward and be heard.
Sheer Conviction is transparent persuasion and it is determined belief. Every detail of the project has been conceived to challenge the viewer's sense of personal politics and to heighten their awareness of global political issues. Every town is represented in the passion of civilians and the photographs of soldiers are universally anonymous and represent every country. The installation is physically slick and impeccably crafted, like display advertisements that attempt to lure us into vacant consumption with the promise of acquiring distinction and sophistication. In Jaar's thought provoking and disarming installation the message is clear, the meaning inescapable and the consequences obvious. For Alfredo Jaar the journey from ignorance to awareness, apathy to action and repression to emancipation is an excursion he encourages us to undertake with sheer conviction.
Alfredo Jaar was born in Santiago, Chile and currently lives in New York City.
Director, Light Work