ALFREDO JAAR AT WAM

WAM is privileged to be hosting The Sound of Silence, a major installation work by acclaimed New York based artist, architect and filmmaker Alfredo Jaar. Jaar’s works often address issues around how Africa is represented in the media. This particular work takes, as its point of departure, South African photographer Kevin Carter’s Pulitzer Prize winning photograph of a starving child being stalked by a vulture in Sudan (2006). As a museum devoted to African art, WAM is thus delighted to be able to show the work of this important contemporary artist.

The main focus of Jaar’s oeuvre is the politics of images: their effect on modern society ‘bombarded by thousands of images without warning, without mercy, containing messages of consumption crafted by marketing and communications experts.’ In his work, Jaar observes and deconstructs the means by which images in the media portray the world. He directs the viewer to the parts of the visual experience that they may not have considered in their reckoning of who has power, who does not, and why.

This sculpture-and-film installation addresses difficult questions about human response to the suffering of others, the responsibilities of the witness, and the ownership of images that serve as witness in the media. The Sound of Silence is a powerful testimony in Jaar’s longstanding examination of political injustices and the limitations of their representation.

The artist describes the work as a theatre built for a single image ‘an invitation to reflect on the meaning of that image, on the construction of that image, on the history of that image and on the ultimate effect of that image on human beings around the world.’

The installation consists of a colossal enclosed aluminium structure that compels the viewer to enter. A light alternating between red and green at the door signals when people are permitted to enter the space. Once inside, an 8-minute film presents the viewer with a silent narrative that slowly unfolds a sombre and devastating real-life story. With The Sound of Silence, Alfredo Jaar highlights a complex set of ethical and personal questions about the act of looking and the responsibilities that follow.

Editions of this installation are owned by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago and by the Museum of Fine Arts in Philadelphia. It has been shown 25 times around the world and exists in more than eight different language versions. This is the first time it will be shown in South Africa.

The exhibition is generously supported by the Goodman Gallery where a range of Jaar’s important works, produced over the last 20 years will be concurrently on display. It includes works that reflect on triumphs of African creativity, intellectual and economic achievement as well as the scourges of racism and domination.

Education programme:

Thurs 25 February 13h15 Public Lecture by Alfredo Jaar. Apollonia Lecture Theatre, Wits School of Arts. Meet at Wits Art Museum at 13h00 if you are unsure of where to find the Apollonia Lecture Theatre.

Sat 27 February 12h00 Talkabout with Alfredo Jaar at Wits Art Museum.

For additional information on the exhibition contact Lesley.Cohen@wits.ac.za or phone 011 717 1357.

For further information on the education programme email info.wam@wits.ac.za or call 011 717 1378.