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The Chile Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale
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The Chile Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale

Picture of Ellen Von Weigand
Updated: 27 January 2016
Chile has selected artist Alfredo Jaar to represent his native country in their National Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale. Jaar’s deeply contextual installations deal consistently with politics and global conflict in an effort to bring art away from its inward looking tendencies, and to force audiences to acknowledge realities that they would perhaps prefer to ignore. His newest site-specific project will be unveiled on 29 May 2013, during the preview of the premier international art event.
The Arsenale

Alfredo Jaar will return to the Venice Biennale in 2013 as the official selection for Chilean national representation. The New York based artist, architect, film maker and lecturer will show in Chile’s allocated spot in the Arsenale, the largest pre-industrial production center in the world, dating to the thirteenth century. Jaar has exhibited at the international art event on other occasions, including an appearance in 1986, when he was invited as the first ever Latin American artist to participate. Madeleine Grynsztejn has been selected by the artist to curate his presentation. Grynsztejn, the Protzker Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, has had an enduring relationship with Jaar’s since 1990, when she coordinated his first major international exhibition at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, California.

As Alfredo Jaar’s artworks consistently change during their development, the artist has maintained a secretive approach to his project for the Chilean Pavilion. By neglecting to speak in depth about the pavilion theme, he remains free to experiment in his preferred, free flowing creative manner. Key to his artistic approach is the importance placed on context. Jaar sees the art world is insular and self referential, which has inspired him to spend much of his career traveling in search of real world problems with which to engage, thus reaching new audiences by means of culture. Within these political, cultural and public contexts, the artist involves profound research, visits and interviews, to attain a deep understanding of his subjects. Only at the point in which he feels he has accumulated sufficient information, can he begin to produce work. All the artist will reveal about his Venice project, is that his site specific installation will react critically to the Biennale as an organisational structure for exhibiting art.

Signs of LIfe

The complexity of global relations is a concept that infiltrates each of Jaar’s undertakings. The artist’s most significant series spanned six years (1994-2000), and included 21 works which reflected upon the Rwanda Genocide while recognising the limits of art in representing such horrific realities. In an early Rwanda project that makes overt reference to conceptual artist On Kawara, Jaar found a series of postcards in a destroyed post office in Kigali, Rwanda and sent them to friends. On each postcard the artist included the name of a different survivor that he encountered, followed by a brief: ‘…is still alive!’. Kawara’s 1960s work used the same wording, although his postcards had read ‘I am still alive!’. The Rwanda postcards remove the self-referential nature of Kawara’s work and serve to highlight signs of individual life in this terror ridden land.

A 2000 project titled The Skoghall Konstalle, which Jaar undertook in Sweden, demonstrates the perfect balance between poetry and information, a union which the artist is constantly attempting to achieve. Within the town in which the work was shown, the proprietors of a paper mill had built almost everything in the community except for a cultural or exhibition space which was lacking completely. Jaar decided to create one with funding from the paper company and artworks from young local artists. The temporary museum was open for 24 hours before being burned to the ground as a spectacle, revealing the power of the flames, at once destructive and magnificent. A year later Jaar was invited to return, this time as an architect, to construct a permanent museum in the community.

Watch a Video of The Skoghall Konstalle Project:

The Chile team

Artist: Alfredo Jaar

Commissioner: CNCA, National Council of Culture and the Arts

Curator: Madeleine Grynsztejn

Venue: Pavilion at Arsenale


About the Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Project

The 55th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale will take place from 1 June – 24 November. The Culture Trip’s Venice Biennale Series is an article series leading up to the start of the exhibition. With 88 countries participating in this year’s Biennale — 10 of them for the first time — and 150 artists from 37 countries, our coverage over the next couple of months will highlight a selection of the National Pavilions that will be participating in the 2013 edition of the Venice Biennale. Watch the Biennale page on our site or The Culture Trip’s Facebook page for our daily Biennale articles and updates.



By Ellen Von Wiegand


Image courtesy: 1: Janericloebe/Wikipedia Commons, 2: Deogratias and the Representation of the Rwandan Genocide.