Alfredo Jaar is a much celebrated artist, architect and filmmaker. His work shines a light on global injustices like homelessness, immigration, refugees’ crisis, genocides, etc. He brings attention to the invisible, the people that the media, the governments and general public don’t want to see. His works range from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Norway’s immigration policies, to homelessness in Montreal.
Through his installations, he juggles between video, photography and elements of theatre. Jaar is an artist who believes in the power of the image to change minds and ideas. He uses the visual to portray traumatic events in new insightful perspectives.
He uses art as a tool for social change and as a platform for dialogue. According to him, art is what we want it to be. He clearly emphasizes on the importance of cultural and historical context when creating a project. The point is to not act in the world before understanding it.
One project that resonated with me the most was on the topic of refugees.
As the EU won the Nobel prize for peace, it also became a fortress against immigrants. Many xenophobic and nationalist political parties in Europe are growing stronger. The immigration crisis is nothing new. As Jaar says, it’s only that the faces were black so they were invisible and nobody cared. For him, it’s about giving a new visibility to the refugees crisis.
One of his work is called The Gift. A white cube is given by volunteers to random people in the streets. When opening it, the instructions tell them to turn the cube inside out, revealing a reconstructed image of a beach near Bodrum, and a message to help MOAS. The Migrant Offshore Aid Station is an organisation working with drones to survey the sea. As the EU regulations do not allow anyone to approach refugees boats unless there’s a clear distress or the boat is sinking, MOAS found a way to go around that law using drones to send signal to Rome’s Maritime Rescue, from where the message is then transmitted to MOAS’ boats in order to save the refugees.