Yesterday I went to a gallery talk by Alfredo Jaar at Berlinische Galerie and stayed afterwards for a public conversation between him and Chantal Mouffe. It is an Alfredo Jaar love fest here right now in Berlin with exhibitions happening simultaneously at three different institutions: Berlinische Galerie, NGBK and Alte Nationalgalerie. The work installed at Berlinische Galerie is mostly from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Part of it is about the Rwandan genocide. He spent time there during the 1990s.
Jaar’s discussion of four photographs of two Rwandan boys was incredibly moving. In the photographs the boys are seen from behind; they are about twelve years old. They are watching some kind of activity outside the frame that we, the spectator, cannot see. In the background, there is a big crowd watching whatever it is that’s happening. The photographs are shown digitally on a vertical plasma screen and they fade slowly into one another. The subtle transitions of these images are so powerful because they expose how the boys connect with each other in solidarity and fear and hope and fright through the very slight movements and small gestures of their bodies, clinging to one another. These movements that expose the human touch are where the political comes out in much of Jaar’s work in these exhibitions. That is what makes it moving: to show us, rather than tell us the way it is.