Alfredo Jaar: 25 Years Later review

4 out of 5 stars
Alfredo Jaar: 25 Years Later review
Alfredo Jaar 'Six Seconds' (2000) © the artist. Image courtesy of Goodman Gallery

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Thousands upon thousands of eyes stare at you in Alfredo Jaar’s new exhibition. They peer out from a huge mound of slides on a massive light table, piled messily as high as your head. But as you get closer, you realise that it’s just one pair of eyes, repeated forever, on each slide. Pull one out and look at it against the light, examine it up close. They belong to Nduwayezu, a Tutsi child photographed by the artist in the wake of watching his parents’ murder. A trauma which rendered him mute. Those infinite eyes tell infinite stories of suffering, pain and loss during the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

And his repeated gaze is the centrepiece of this show, an exhibition bringing together parts of Jaar’s ‘The Rwanda Project, 1994-2000’: a work of art which functions as a damning attack on western indifference in the face of genocide. It is still brutally, shockingly affecting 25 years on.

This pile of slides feels like a barely shrouded corpse, it implies mass graves for faceless victims of unspeakable violence. It’s so big it’s overwhelming. Across one wall, Jaar has framed a series of 1994 Newsweek covers, front pages dedicated to sports stars, financial crashes and celebrities. Underneath each, he details the genocidal events that were taking place concurrently in Rwanda.

A film upstairs shows Bill Clinton’s admission of international neglect in the face of mass murder: a half-arsed apology during which he can’t even bring himself to say the word ‘genocide’. A blurry photo captures a girl walking away just after finding out that her parents had died at the hands of the Hutus.

The only qualm is that the show is so small, that more work isn’t included. Because this is research as art, a pioneering attempt to fuse historical investigation and aesthetics. This is Jaar using the gallery, using his position as an artist, to decry political inaction, to condemn murder. It’s a modern ‘Guernica’ or ‘The Execution of Maximilian’. It’s horrifying, painful and unbelievably powerful.


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