Special Program held 7 May 2021 | New York: Jaar is the only non-Italian artist included in the project. The Chilean-born artist has worked extensively in Italy and pursued long-term artistic research on italian political and cultural activism.
Recorded live on May 7. In the interest of time, the program was conducted in English. The recording includes Italian subtitles.
In this special episode of Costellazione, Chilean-born artist Alfredo Jaar discusses his work, Venezia, Venezia, installed in the Arsenale of the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013, when he was chosen to represent Chile. It was his fourth participation in the Biennale. The work included a 1:60 to-scale reproduction of the Giardini juxtaposed with a second work, Milan, 1946, made of the iconic photograph of Italian-Argentine artist Lucio Fontana climbing over the ruins of his studio (the copyright for which Jaar obtained), enlarged and illuminated bya hanging lightbox. The resin architectural model (and its primariy Europeannational pavilions) sunk and re-surfaced over 28,000 times over the course of the exhibition. The resin architectural model of the Giardini (the site of the Biennale's national pavilions) submerged and re-surfaced over 24,000 times over the course of the exhibition, enacting a "historical fantasy" for the artist.
About the artist: Chilean-born artist Alfredo Jaar (b. 1956) has been an artist of immense importance in contemporary art for over four decades. Well known for his public interventions, investigation of humanitarian crises, and long engagement with histories of repression and resistance, Jaar has also addressed Italy and Italian culture in his work for over twenty years; it has been a key area of research in his extensive artistic practice. He is the only non-Italian artist included in the series.
Major individual exhibitions and surveys of Jaar’s workhave been held internationally, at the New Museum in 1992, Moderna Museet in1994, MoCA Chicago in 1995, the Museum of contemporary Art in Rome in 2005, Hangar Bicocca in 2008, and the Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlinische Galerie andNeue Gesellscaft fur bildende Kunst in Berlin in 2012, among others. He has participated in two editions of Documenta, four Sao Paulo bienals, and four Venice Biennales. His many awards include a MacArthur Fellowship and Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Hiroshima Art Prize. Last year he was awarded the Hasselblad Award in Photography. His work is included in collections around the world, including MoMA New York, MoCA and LACMA in Los Angeles, the Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Stedelijk museum, and MAXXI and MACRO in Rome.
In his work on Italy, Jaar has specifically engaged with radical Italian thought, political theory, activism, and cultural forms of resistance—drawing upon Antonio Gramsci’s own concept of “aesthetics of resistance” and the work of Pier Paolo Pasolini. He has dedicated many works to Gramsci, most famously in his Gramsci Trilogy from the mid-aughts, including Infinite Cell from 2004, Let One Hundred Flowers Bloom from 2005 and The Ashes of Gramsci, which draws its title from Pasolini’s famous poem of the same name, Le ceneri di Gramsci. For the triology’s epilogue, Jaar transformed an iconic example of fascist architecture—Giuseppe Terragni’s 1936 Casa del Fascio in Como—into a screen for projected images of Gramsci’s grave.
In his film from 2009, The Ashes of Pasolini, Jaar again drew upon Pasolini’s famous poem.The film includes footage of Pasolini, who was murdered in 1975, discussing hiswork as a form of protest. It also includes excerpts of Pasolini’s literary and cinematic works, including Empirismoeretico (1972) and Mamma Roma (1962). He has also made sculptures and public interventions that address the work ofNanni Balestrini, Antonio Negri (who contributed to the catalog for the work Jaar discusses in the program) and Italy’s workers’ movement, as in Vogliamo Tutto from 2016.
In more recent work from 2019, including Due o tre cose che so dei mostri (Two or Three Things I know about monsters), at the Real Teatro Bellini in Palermo and Chiaroscuro, a project in Rome for MAXXi, Jaar illuminated and circulated Gramsci’s famous linefrom his prison notebooks, which reads: Il vecchio mondo sta morendo, quello nuovo tarda a comparire, e in questochiaroscuro nascono i mostri, which means, “The Old world is dying, the newone late to appear, and in this chiaroscuro monsters are born.” The works prompt consideration of the resonances between fascist history and our contemporary moment. They ask us how creative resistance can work against cultural hegemony, and how intellect can be, as Jaar has put it, “an instrument for the organization of human life” (Jaar and Adamovsky, 2008).
Detail of Venezia, Venezia (2013). Image courtesy of the artist.