55th Venice Biennale. Alfredo Jaar at the Chilean Pavilion
Alfredo Jaar has developed a critical practice of call and response through alert and advanced invocations to sites of crisis. Whether about violence and poverty, exile and migration, or other conditions of global or ideological conflict, his work prompts observation and thinking that unsettle conventions and complacency.
Representing Chile at the 55th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia in its temporary pavilion situated in the Arsenale, Jaar’s evocative installation Venezia, Venezia guides visitors along an arching passage—like one of Venice’s iconic bridges—of striking visual and somatic encounters of aridity and liquidity.
The passage begins with a confrontation of a photographic image of the Argentine-born Italian artist Lucio Fontana, following his return to Milan in 1946, unsteadily poised amidst the catastrophic evidence of the Second World War. Beyond this image of a pandemonium of dust and destruction, steps lead to the physical embodiment of a historic utopia and a conceptual opportunity for reconstruction.
Through a subtle orchestration of space and time, light and darkness, movement and stasis, and the partially revealed and provocatively withheld, the environment of the Pavilion of Chile becomes a psychic and epochal encounter of the errancy of images and the vulnerabilities of historical accountability.
Jaar’s situated installation critically examines the history of international representation to invoke expansive questions about the volatility and tension of continuously transforming contemporary global contexts. In the past few years, water has surfaced as the tragic siren of sudden deluge and inundation, as well as the discursive symbol of imminent revitalization or renewal. Venezia, Venezia is a magical and poetic spatio-temporal passage that presents to us a difficult summons for critical reflection, ethical vigilance, and genuine response.
Alfredo Jaar was born in Santiago, Chile in 1956. He has lived in New York since 1982. He has shown extensively around the world. He has participated in the Venice Biennale (1986, 2007, 2009), São Paulo Bienal (1985, 1987, 2010), and Documenta in Kassel (1987, 2002). His recent major solo exhibitions include the Musée Cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne (2007) ; Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2008) ; and a retrospective at three Berlin institutions: Berlinische Galerie, Neue Gesellschaft für Bildende Kunst and Alte Nationalgalerie (2012).
Venezia, Venezia is curated by Madeleine Grynsztejn, the Pritzker Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, and commissioned by the National Council of Culture and the Arts.
A major publication, edited by Adriana Valdés and published by Actar (Barcelona), collects essays by eighteen major authors from around the world and from different fields of work and thought. Their contributions consider Venezia, Venezia in its critical context, as well as recent global developments and the volatile conditions of contemporary art practice.
Lucio Fontana visits his studio on his return from Argentina, Milan, 1946
Installation shots by Agostino Osio