Revealing and Concealing by Christian Holler – Alfredo Jaar

Christian Holler’s piece on “Revealing and Concealing” regarding the selected installations of the 1990’s and 2000’s Alfredo Jaar works that explore this “power and impotence of images” is astounding. Jaar reflects on the these antipodes of images, and how horrific imagery has “long lost their immediate effect on our minds and souls.” (373)

“Images of horror show us, without warnings, all the terrible things happening in the world. At the same time, however, they irreversibly dull our senses and reassure us that we’re not directly threatened by these scenes of horror.” (373) As we discussed in class, there is a very real and present numbness to how viewers in current day see and process images from war or other tragedies. We sympathize, but cannot empathize as we are not in the same situation and cannot relate.

Speaking specifically about Alfredo Jaar’s Rwanda Project, for which he created between the years of 1994-2000. The genocide in Rwanda was the victim of “inaction” at the hands of the international community. As Holler stated in the article, “it was only after the deed was done, in other words, after a million members of the Tutsi minority were slaughtered, that the West began to address the matter more thoroughly, that the horrific report began to appear – after their power to change anything was long expired.” (375)

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Jaar argues that the numbness many viewers have towards these images of horror have may not be that the image itself isn’t powerful/or not powerful, but that instead it comes from the way that the viewer is “addressed or activated”. In his work Real Pictures, which resembles a “image graveyard”, where images are explained instead of actually pictured. This decision, and “the means of reduction, of deprivation and absence, play[s] an essential role.” This opposite approach of forcing the viewers to take control and really pushes people to put themselves in a space of trying to imagine to incident, which often can lead them to feel uncomfortable.

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