Alfredo Jaar

Alfredo Jaar, The Geometry of Conscience, 2010. Full image credit below.

Inaugural Bunny and Charles Burson Visiting Lecture

Posted by Liam Otten February 3, 2014

In 1973, a military junta led by General Augusto Pinochet seized power from Chilean president Salvador Allende. Opposition parties were banned, thousands of dissidents were "disappeared," tens of thousands more were imprisoned, tortured and exiled.

All this came as a shock to Alfredo Jaar. Born in Santiago, Jaar had been raised on the Caribbean island of Martinique but returned home with his family just a year before the coup. In college he studied architecture but was disillusioned by the ugliness of government-sanctioned buildings. His hopes to study film were dashed when Pinochet closed Chile’s only film school.

So instead, Jaar began Studies in Happiness (1979-81), a conceptual art project for which he asked random passers-by whether or not they were happy—at the time, a risky, subversive question.

Today Jaar is one of Latin America's foremost contemporary artists, known for installations and public interventions that investigate war, corruption, social justice, media desensitization, and the global balance of power.

On Monday, February 10, Jaar will deliver the inaugural Bunny and Charles Burson Visiting Lecture for the Sam Fox School. The lecture will begin at 6:30p in Steinberg Auditorium, and be preceded by a reception at 6p in the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.

The talk comes in conjunction with In the Aftermath of Trauma: Contemporary Video Installations, on view at the Kemper Art Museum through April 20. The exhibition features May 1, 2011, Jaar's exploration of images and their absence in the post-9/11 war on terror.

In related programming, Mary Sabbatino, vice president of Galerie Lelong, will deliver a special presentation at 9a Tuesday, February 11, in Room 103 of the Kemper Art Museum. The New York-based gallery focuses on contemporary art and represents artists and estates from the United States, South America, Europe, and Australia, including Jaar.

Bunny and Charles Burson Visiting Artist Lecture

"The Bunny and Charles Burson Visiting Lecture will have a tremendous impact on our students, providing meaningful opportunities to engage with some of the most influential artists from around the world," says Carmon Colangelo, dean of the Sam Fox School and the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts.

"These distinguished practitioners are known for tackling the social and political issues of our time," Colangelo adds, "and their work will stimulate vital conversations focused on the impact of art, architecture, and design in addressing the future of our complex, rapidly changing environment."

Colangelo notes that Bunny Burson is herself a widely exhibited printmaker known for addressing contemporary social and political issues. A native of Memphis, she earned a BFA from the Memphis College of Art in 1981 and an MFA from the Sam Fox School in 2005.

"As an older student, I was aware of the importance of listening to the commentary and advice of my younger classmates," Burson says. Conversely, "by sharing my own life experiences, I engaged them in conversation about the importance of understanding the social and political context in which they worked—hoping that awareness would impact their art and their lives.

"Charles and I are pleased that the School is bringing an artist of Alfredo Jaar's stature to campus," Burson adds. "By providing access to him and to his work, this first lecture combines and reinforces that cross-generational and cross-disciplinary experience can inspire students to see their work as part of the larger national and global conversation."

Alfredo Jaar

Now based in New York, Jaar has, over the last three decades, realized more than 60 interventions around the world. Subjects range from the Rwandan genocide and the export of industrial pollution to Brazilian mining practices and border tensions between Mexico and the United States.

Recent projects include The Geometry of Conscience, a memorial to victims of Pinochet's regime, located next to Santiago's new Museum of Memory and Human Rights; and the similarly elegiac Park of the Laments, adjacent to the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Jaar has presented major exhibitions at The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, Whitechapel in London, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, among many other venues. In 2012, a retrospective of his work took place at three institutions in Berlin: Berlinische Galerie, Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst e.V., and the Alte Nationalgalerie.

More than 50 monographs about Jaar's work have been published to date. In 2013, he represented Chile at the 55th Venice Biennale.

Image credit

Alfredo Jaar, The Geometry of Conscience, 2010. Santiago de Chile, Museo de la Memoria y de los Derechos Humanos. Courtesy Galerie Lelong, New York, and the artist, New York.