Alfredo Jaar: Politics of the Image

Alfredo Jaar, “The Sound of Silence,” 2006.

For his forthcoming solo show Politics of the Image, opening tomorrow at South London Gallery, Season 4 artist Alfredo Jaar presents six works born of his enduring interest in Africa. This is the first opportunity in fifteen years to see a significant body of his work in London.

The exhibition brings together the multi-media installation The Sound of Silence (2006); the artist’s first film, Muxima (2005); and four photographic works: The Power of Words (1984), Searching for Africa in Life (1996), From Time to Time (2006) and Greed (2007). These six works provide insight into Jaar’s contribution to the ongoing debate among art and cultural critics about documentary photography’s contested relationship to suffering.

Housed in an austere zinc-clad light-box, the 8-minute silent film in The Sound of Silence exposes the social history around a single image of a young victim of the 1990s Sudanese famine, overlooked by a vulture. The image won a Pulitzer Prize, but the South African photographer Kevin Carter committed suicide after being vilified by the public for not having intervened to save the child’s life. Jaar’s work highlights the problematic issues surrounding the image to unearth some of the broader socio-political concerns related to the West’s responsibility to Africa and the developing world.

A sensitive counter to the works in the main gallery space, Muxima is rooted in Jaar’s love of African music and the belief that music can resonate with, and therefore help communicate, the experiences of people. The film looks at the history of Angola through a series of different renditions of a traditional folk song of the same name. It traces a sense of Angola’s colonial past and maps its present, touching on issues such as the aftermath of civil war, AIDS and oil production.

This exhibition will be on view through April 6. Read more here.