31. “Art: 21 : art in the twenty-first century. 4” edited by Susan Sollins

This week the Oregon College of Art and Craft’s lecture series, Connection: Intersecting Tradition and Innovation, is hosting a lecture by Alfredo Jaar at the Blue Sky Gallery tonight from 7:00 – 8:30pm. More information about Jaar’s lecture, “It Is Difficult,” can be found here. Don’t miss this talk!

For this week’s library pick, we have selected “Art: 21 : art in the twenty-first century. 4” edited by Susan Sollins. It happens to be the companion book to PBS’ series on contemporary visual art and artists in the United States today. We also have the season 4 DVD that goes along with this book available (excerpts of the DVD can be viewed on the Art:21 website – including an excerpt with Alfredo Jaar).

Alfredo Jaar’s work “explores the public’s desensitization to images and the limitations of art to represent events such as genocides, epidemics, and famines” (219). One installation, The Silence of Dduwayezu, covered in the book (and DVD) addresses the holocaust inRwanda. It consists of 1 million slides, a light table, and magnifiers that allow viewers to get a “centimeter away from the eyes of Nduwayezu, who witnessed what we didn’t want to see.” Nduwayezu witnessed his parents being murdered by machetes. His response was silence. He “couldn’t speak” for four weeks, and, so what Jaar attempts to do with this piece is to “represent that and speak about his silence—because his silence refers to the silence of the world community that let this happen” (33). This piece does not allow the viewer to look away from the tragedy.  

In the excerpt from the Art:21 DVD with Alfredo Jaar,  the artist has a lot of interesting things to say about art and its ability to represent lived experience. To Jaar, a “huge gap between reality and its possible representations” exists “and that gap is impossible to close”. Jaar argues that it is the role of the artist to “try different strategies of representation” in order to analyze, to reflect on, to raise awareness about, and to respond to events that society has become desensitized to or doesn’t want to think about (from video excerpt linked to above).

Other artists represented in this book include: Jenny Holzer, Alfredo Jaar, An-My Lê, Nancy Spero, Robert Adams, Mark Dion, Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla, Mark Bradford, Robert Ryman, Catherine Sullivan, Pierre Huyghe, Judy Pfaff, Lari Pittman, and Laurie Simmons.


3 thoughts on “31. “Art: 21 : art in the twenty-first century. 4” edited by Susan Sollins

  1. I had no idea this series existed until earlier this year when I found it on Hulu. I was hooked – I had no idea there was a book companion!

    Jaar is a remarkable artist – I’m sure it was fantastic to experience his lecture.

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