My Thesis.

This is my Thesis. Please have a read and share. Thanks

 

Contents

Illustrations                                                                                            4

Introduction                                                                                           5

 

Chapter One

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

Chapter Two

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

 Chapter Three

3.1 Lament of the Images (2002).                                                      18

3.2 The Privatisation of Images.                                                       20

Conclusion                                                                                              23

Bibliography                                                                                           25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Illustrations

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

 


Introduction

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.

 

Chapter One. 

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.

 


Chapter Two 

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:

JYAMIYA MUHAWENIMAWA

IS STILL ALIVE!

EMANUEL RUCOGOZA

IS STILL ALIVE!

CARITAS NAMAZURU

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 1

Figure 2. Newsweek. 1995

Figure 2

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

Figure 3

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.

figure 4

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.

Figure 5

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.


Chapter 3. 

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.

 

 

Conclusion

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.

 

Bibliography 

Websites

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Books

  • Whelan, FW, 2014. TEN: Territory, Encounter & Negotiation. 1st ed. Dublin: Self

Published.

  • David Levi Strauss, 1899. Let There Be Light: The Rwanda Project 1994–1998.

Edition. Actar.

  • Jaar, AJ, 2006. Jaar SCL 2006. The university of California: Actar, 2006
  • Mouffe, C. (2013) Agonistics: Thinking the world politically. London: Verso

Books. In-line Citation:(Mouffe, 2013)

  • Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, 2010. Krzysztof Wodiczko: Guests. Bilingual Edition.

Charta/Zacheta National Gallery of Art.

  • Noam Chomsky, 2012. How the World Works. Hamish Hamilton.
  • Roland Barthes, 1997. The Eiffel Tower and Other Mythologies. Reprint Edition. University of California Press.
  • Krzysztof Wodiczko, 2012. The Abolition of War. Edition. Black Dog Publishing.

Podcasts

  • Chomsky, N. (2014). Surviving the 21st Century. Chomsky Audio Library.

Videos

What to do after college …

following on from the last post. Here’s the latest…

Donald Trump has taken many steps forward to becoming the republican nomination for the general election. How on earth can people vote for this racist, scaremongering polarizing a**hole who speaks in general terms and without facts. Americans need to get behind Sanders. If Trump had his way he’d start a civil war in the U.S.

In other news, college is moving along and getting ever closer to the May deadline. I still have some questions to answer for myself in terms of my work and it’s purpose. With that, I met the careers advisor in the college who offered some advice and made aware post graduation offers to me. This is were I get lost, I can’t decide if I should apply to do a MA course and if I do, what MA curse will I apply to??? I also have a possible option to apply to go on the European Voluntary Service (EVS) which would mean spending a year volunteering abroad. The other two options on my plate at the moment is to try get an internship in the sector I like to see if that’s where I want to go and that could help me decide what MA course to study. The last option is to graduate and apply for a job, whatever job is available I suppose. I’d like to continue coaching rugby and develop my training and knowledge in that area so the options above will impact that.

So yes, a lot of option available and yet zero decisions made so far.

 

Where I Stand.

OK, so I’ve been busy lately. Let me recap.

Rugby

In rugby, we’ve been venturing on. The number of people at training has plateaued to 6 (if you include me). We’ve had 2 games scheduled since my last post. Game one was a loss by 1 point. Our discipline was very good for the first 30 minutes with only conceding a low single digit penalty count. The balance of the game dramatically shifted to them in the second half. This was down to our failure to exit our 22 metre red zone which resulted in tiredness, which had a knock on effect in terms of our attitude. This was compounded by the unbalanced refereeing calls. The crucial penalty which ended the game was awarded about 15 metres from our try line. The opposition took this penalty quickly (albeit no were near the referee and he was the mark) this lead to the final try of the game. The score at this moment was 17-16 to us. We had lead the entire game until that point. They kicked over the conversion and won 18-17. The referee had the score 15-14 in his book, so he calculated it wrong. The penalty count in the first half was a ratio of 2:1. They conceded 2 penalties for everyone 1 penalty we conceded and we ended up with a man in the sin bin on the 75 minutes. This unbalanced refereeing has always affected our club and it does play on the minds of our members, that is unfair and is creating a volatile atmosphere between ourselves and the referees which we are working very hard on our end to eliminate.

As a team must, we regrouped for our next Friday night away game. Most members met in our club early to travel as a group, some traveled directly to the away venue. While we were en route we received a call (75 minutes before kick off) informing us that the game has been cancelled due to a waterlogged pitch. It had been raining all day and I had assumed that morning it was to be called off but they failed to inform us in advance and relied on making a late decision. This seems like a minor thing but when some people ask their employers to leave early or take time off from work, college or family to play and the game is called off in the last moments, that is not acceptable. We returned to the club packed away the equipment and settled for a beer while watching Connacht Rugby play on TV.

 

College

My last update on college was centered around my work on temporary accommodation. I am still focused on this subject and I am building more structures in college along with some projection ideas. It’s all getting very close now as I have my Degree Exhibition on June 7th. Essentially I have 3 months to formulate, develop and exhibit.

Everything Else

I am currently looking ta volunteering with/through EVS (European Voluntary Service) after I complete college and officially graduate. Where will I go? what type of organisation will I work with? How long will it last for? all of these questions are currently in the process of being answered but will take some time.

Before that, I am looking to try and get away for a weekend, nothing has happened yet as I am also trying to get a couple of friends to also go but when you try organise something  with others it can be very difficult.

Currently reading ‘M Train by Patti Smith’. I just started this last night. After chapter one I am now interested so I will continue to read it. This is difficult because when I get home from College, Ruby, the gym or other things I do, I do be exhausted and find it difficult to find the time to read but I am prioritising it now so I hope to finish this book by the end of the week.

I’ll update next week. Thank you for reading.

Unseen

Well it’s been a long time since my last update.

The work below is from my current work at college. I started by reading about the Syrian conflict and the lack of material in the the newspapers here in Ireland. I began by looking to build a structure to display the articles I found in relation Syria and the refugees. I looked at structures in Syria so that the structure I build has some relation to the place I want to talk about.

Below is a Syrian Beehive house.

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With this structure, I began to try and create my own. Rather than just just build a similar one I decided to use the news articles as the building material. Below is a trial and error version of a beehive home built from newspaper.

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I used basic garden rope to hang the structure and create a frame for which I could build on. After this, I began to look at other structures from an origami book (the use of paper lead me here). The tent structure was the easiest way to go so I began with an actual tent, this was a little too obvious and far from my starting point. With this in mind, I pealed back the tent to reveal its basic frame. (See below)

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As you can see, I used washing line rope (blue rope) to hold the tent sticks together and give that tension required to bend the bars into the shape. I then used cable ties to hold the rope in place where it crosses itself.

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I used these materials becomes of their softness and minimalist look. I then took the newspaper and lay it on the ground in a formation (5,4,3,2) this created a triangle shape that was wide enough to cover the bottom and top of one side of the tent. It took 3 triangle formations to cover the entire tent shape.

I then painted the tent black so i could project a count up clock on the back and a projection of jumbled words on the left.

 

Front

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Left side

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While projecting on this side (left side) i created a rainbow effect over the shadow of the tent and on the floor, this worked out really well and was very captivating, the rainbow was a symbol of something better, something less dark the tent and what the articles represented.

The projection on the back of the structure was a cunt-up clock, it started at 000,000 and counted up to 432,164, this was the number of refugees that entered Europe in 2013, the clock took 90 minutes to count up and was on loop.

(Back projection image to be uploaded)

More images of the structure internally, showcasing useless and uninformative “news”.

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I am still working on this work, leading up to my degree show in June, this was part of the “unseen” exhibition, NCAD third year interim exhibition.

Art, an object and a powerful tool in everyday life.

College Essay – Due Tomorrow. I thought I’d give all you bloggers a view first.

 

Art, an object and a powerful tool in everyday life.

  1. Introduction
  2. Questions

2.1    How does a Western artist working in a vulnerable region keep integrity when representing other people in their work?

2.2    Can/should artists produce politically neutral work?

2.3    What effect does being in a place over time have on the work an artist produces there?

  1. Conclusion

Art, an object and a powerful tool in everyday life.

richard mosse congo - for essay

Figure 1‘Taking Tiger Mountain, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2011­’

Introduction

This essay was influenced by a lecture that Richard Mosse had given in The National college of Art and Design (NCAD). The lecture was about his work that was in the Venice Biennale: The Enclave. He has also published a book called Infra, A collection of photographs taken in 2010/11 by artist, Richard Mosse. He captured the images using Kodak aerochrome, a discontinued recognisance infrared film. The images published in the book “Infra” where taken in The Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo). The Kodak aerochrome registerschlorophyll in live vegetation resulting in a very surreal landscape that appears in lush pinks and reds. Currently in Congo, war between rebel factions and the Congolese national army is ongoing. Sexual violence and child recruitment being two the big issues. In this essay, I will be asking the following questions:

How does a Western artist working in a vulnerable region keep integrity when representing other people in his or her work?

Can/should artists produce politically neutral work?

What effect does being in a place over time have on the work an artist produces there?

In this part of the essay I will pose the questions to myself and try and answer the questions or at least offer opinion and examples on them.

How does a Western artist working in a vulnerable region keep integrity when representing other people in their work?

Infra and The Enclave try to represent a place of huge divide, murder, mass rape and the recruitment of child soldiers with a unique type of film called ‘Kodak Aerochrome’. It is not easy for a western artist to produce such work, especially when he is personally disconnected from the place or problems. The photographs that Mosse has produced, are so unique in colour that they capture the eye of the viewer and inform them, to a degree of The Congo and its problems (See Figure 1 above). The uniqueness of the picture above may also distract and become a self-contained image and rather than see context all you will see is the strong pink and red colours.

During his address to the first year students in NCAD, I noted what Richard Mosse had to say about colour:

“The colour reveals the unseen” (Mosse R, 2014).

When I heard Mosse say this, I started to look at the images and wonder, without the context was the image as powerful and did it hide the atrocities that were occurring in the Congo? Such an image doesn’t show the gruesome that is the Congo. In my opinion, the colour was rather a distraction. When I looked at this image, I didn’t see the Congo as it is but rather as Mosse would like me to see it. What was happening and what has happened in the Congo was beyond new representations and especially those representations that prioritised medium over subject, the medium being the Aerochrome film and the subject being the Congo. This work has received a rather overwhelming approval from the art world and this makes you really think whether the whole project was driven by the feeling to make more people aware of The Congo and its problems or was it driven by pressure to produce something unique for a show? I simply do not know.

Can/should artists produce politically neutral work?

I put this questions to an artist and a friend of mine, Fiona Whelan. Fiona Whelan is an artist with a durational practice based in Rialto, working in collaboration with Rialto Youth Project over ten years. She is also Joint Course Coordinator of the MA Socially Engaged Art at NCAD.

Jonathan Myers:  Can an artist produce neutral work?

Fiona Whelan: I’m not neutral and I don’t claim to be so where I have chosen to position my practice and the work I make as an artist is born of my own beliefs, passions and opinions. I am motivated by a range of things and interests and by my own background, position in society, relationships, views etc. So I must accept that they all have an influence on how I see things and more than that, be willing to stand over them. I think this is the way most artists operate, it becomes personal and your work is your response and a reflection of your thought process and position on something. I’m not sure why anyone would want to make what you describe as ‘politically neutral work’. 9I’m interested in hearing if such people exist and their motivation for being neutral.

For a stand point without any subjectivity, is a standpoint with no point of view – which is to say, no standpoint at all (Levinson, JL, 1998)

I do think, as an artist, there can be times where we question what we are doing, especially when doing things like, ‘socially conscious art’ ‘political art’ and ‘personal representations’. In the case of the above image (Taking Tiger Mountain, North Kivu, Eastern Congo, 2011, figure 1­) it seems that this image is just an image and it doesn’t say much but rather express the qualities of Aerochrome film. You could consider it to be politically neutral, if such a term does exist. During our lecture, Mosse had spoken, he mentioned the fact that he had left the subtitles of a lullaby out of a video piece in his installation work as part of ‘The Enclave’. If I remember correctly the lullaby mentions a sentence like this “look in the bushes and you’ll find bones”. I believe including subtitles will inform the viewer of the horrors that exist in The Congo and thus allows the Artist to inform the viewer more without the work becoming depoliticised. This was a choice and I believe a risk lost.

This also comes back to what Mosse had said during his interview with Anthony Hobbs in St. Catherine’s Church on the 27th of January 2014, the quote is as follows,

“A political view in art becomes propaganda” (Mosse R, 2014).

This quote then made me question whether his images had any true integrity or risk in them.

In my opinion, it should have taken a political view. As quoted by Mosse and stated by the International Rescue Committee in a report (Rescue, 2007), that over 5million people have died from 1998 – 2007 from war related causes. Not taking a side can be considered a said in itself.

The trouble with a lot of politically motivated art is a failure of nerve. Artists who produce work that they know is not favoured by our established regime are not necessarily taking risks, since they can forecast the results. Truly taking a risk means not knowing what’s going to happen in the end by Joe Lewis. (Kester 1995)

I do agree however, as an artist one must find an alternative way to document and produce work as compared to a photojournalist who just documents things the way they are. That being said, it does not mean we cannot take a stance or a view point in our work. If one was to represent the Congo, you could not easily do so. With the death toll said to be around 5.4million (rescue, 2007), mass rape, child soldiers and so on, it seems you are either for it, against it or simply doing what a photojournalist does and documents it. I always thought an artist is supposed to bring the viewer on a deeper, more meaningful journey with their work. Is it not too easy to take a photo and display it with video and lights? When an artist starts to become selective about their audience and their interests, they will, in my opinion, begin to lose a certain quality. The quality that allows us to takes risks, produce work based on our interest, based on the things we care about and that mean a lot to us. When we become too selective, our work becomes narrow. This is because of the ‘Reputation Economy’ that is the art world. I still acknowledge that there are artists out there that operate on their terms and not the terms of the economy.

 

One could take the view that by taking photographs, Mosse, through his art, brought a particular attention to the Congo. He focused the outside world upon its brutalities through the medium of his distinctive photography. In this way Mosse sets himself apart from the journalist who want to tell a story, even though it is questionable whether journalist can work without taking a position on the subjects of their stories.

What effect does being in a place over time have on the work that an artist produces there?

This question can only be answered by artists who have spent time in a place different to the one they grew up in or have come accustomed to. In that case, I put the question again to Fiona Whelan.

Jonathan Myers (Me):  What effect does being in a place over time have on the work that you as an artist produce there?

Fiona Whelan: Most artist funding for project based work is limited to periods of less than a year. For collaborative practice, developing relationships becomes a core part of the work which takes time, particularly when working across sector, discipline and knowledge, time is needed to generate understandings of where others are coming from, their motivations, intentions etc. I have been fortunate that I have been in a position to develop an ideas led practice in Rialto that has not been funding driven and can respond to the context, to the relationships and to my own ideas having listened and learned over time. So often artists are brought in to work on a project but there is limited funding afterwards to collectively explore learning and to critique and evaluate and built upon a common experience. For me, I have sustained a decade in one context which means work has developed over many years and can have many layers to it that have meaning for all those involved. I have been able to be present for the aftermath of a project which is not often afforded to the artist which has offered potential to keep building on previous work and to influence new directions. My presence has also had an impact on creating sustainable structures in the context to allow practices to continue beyond a specific artist led project. 

Conclusion

To question whether work holds integrity, how we as westerners produce work influenced by conflict in Africa or anywhere else in the wold is something we must. Just like this essay, we need to questions things. Even the things that are favoured by the large majority. Art shouldn’t be something that just sits on a pedestal. It needs to take a side because it always has something powerful to say and it can evoke great change around the world. Being neutral is a political position. The Enclave and Infra tried something different. It was very unique in look but conflict art itself is not. The use of an old medium was a really good idea and it paid off in terms of uniqueness in the Photographs published in Infra but I don’t believe it was risky enough to challenge the situation in the Congo and how we as westerners view it. Of course I understand it is hard to assess if art challenges or changes perspectives is this will always remain an issue. We cannot fear marginalisation from main stream art when producing work. Integrity holds merit and art hold power.

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Mosse, RM, 2012. Infra: Photographs by Richard Mosse. 1st ed. USA: Aperture/Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Mosse, RM, (2014). Richard Mosse ‘Enclave’. In Interview with Richard Mosse. St. Catherine’s Church, 27/01/2014. NCAD: Jonathan Myers. 106/7.

Mosse, RM, (2014). Richard Mosse ‘Enclave’. In Interview with Richard Mosse. St. Catherine’s Church, 27/01/2014. NCAD: Jonathan Myers. 106/7.

Rescue. 2007. IRC Study Shows Congo’s Neglected Crisis Leaves 5.4 Million Dead; Peace Deal in N. Kivu, Increased Aid Critical to Reducing Death Toll. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.rescue.org/news/irc-study-shows-congos-neglected-crisis-leaves-54-million-dead-peace-deal-n-kivu-increased-aid–4331. [Accessed 19 March 14].

Kester, GH, 1995. Aesthetic Evangelists: Conversion and Empowerment in Contemporary Community Art. 1st ed. United States: Grant Kester.

Levinson, JL, 1998. Aesthetics and Ethics. 1st ed. United States of America: Cambridge University Press.