Ben Luke talks to Alfredo Jaar about his influences—from writers to film-makers, musicians and, of course, other artists—and the cultural experiences that have shaped his life and work.
Jaar, who was born in 1956, in Santiago, Chile and has been based in New York since the early 1980s, addresses social injustice, human suffering, state-sponsored violence, and imbalances in power between the global north and south.
He also explores how these issues are framed in the international media. He has responded to some of the most troubling moments in recent human history, from the military coup and its aftermath in his native Chile in 1973, and the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s, to wars and covert operations waged by Western powers over multiple decades, and the relentless displacement of refugees across the world. He has done so through uncompromising, searing, yet often deeply moving installations in multiple media.
Among much else, Jaar discusses the profound influence of John Cage, Hans Haacke and Marcel Duchamp, his fascination with Pier Paolo Pasolini, a transformative experience watching Simone Forti, and the poetry of Ben Okri. Plus, he gives insight into his studio life, and answers our usual questions, including the ultimate: “What is art for?”
• Alfredo Jaar: If It Concerns Us, It Concerns You, Goodman Gallery, London 18 April-24 May
• Alfredo Jaar: 50 Years Later, Cecilia Brunson Projects, London, 19 April–19 May 2023
• One Million German Passports, Pinakothek del Moderne, Munich, 29 March-27 August
• Alfredo's exhibition for the 11th Hiroshima Art Prize at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan, 22 July-15 October, and an exhibition at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Santiago, Chile, opens on 14 September
The next season of A brush with... begins on 31 May. You can download and subscribe to the podcast here
This podcast is sponsored by Bloomberg Connects, the arts and culture app.
The free app offers access to a vast range of international cultural organisations through a single download, with new guides being added regularly. They include numerous museums, galleries and organisations through which Alfredo Jaar has shown his work, like the Whitechapel Gallery in London and the Public Art Fund. If you download Bloomberg Connects, you’ll find that the Public Art Fund guide has audio and video features on its current exhibitions, including those by Aïda Muluneh and Bharti Kher, information on their ongoing projects, and highlights from the archive. The archive includes a section on Messages to the Public, the programme for which Alfredo made the work Logo for America.