By Paige Lunde, Cohort ’13
Attending the IDSVA graduation ceremony in New York, I listened to Alfredo Jaar speak about the common thread that unites his work: the power of empathy. Jaar creates monuments and site-specific projects that bring to light our indifference over tragedies and corruption in the world. He begins his process by trying to understand the social, political, and cultural context of each issue. Jaar’s monuments stand in opposition to social injustice by gathering images and ideas to create a new way to identify with the people involved. His creations respond to the powerless voices that cannot speak for themselves. His monuments do more than commemorate death, they signify possibility. The Latin verb monumentum means ‘to remind.’ With each artwork, Jaar poetically reminds us of our chance to approach the sacred depth within us and think with courage.
Speaking about his artistic process Jaar claims, “Everything is context.” This simple, polyphonic call reminds us to recognize the plurality that threads us together. Jaar uniquely approaches human rights as an artist philosopher by thinking through the experience of Otherness to understand how to respect each individual experience. Yet, when habits and comforts distract us from being, humanity neglects its own nature in a spiral of forgetting. And what exactly are we forgetting? That art and philosophy can help us identify with the pain and beauty of life showing us that we are all in the same community, one that has infinite possibility together.
“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage.” Anais Nin