Endings and Beginnings: Thoughts on Finishing the Semester

Steven Volk, May 3, 2015


Hundreds of silhouettes gradually light up over 90 seconds. Alfredo Jaar, “Geometry of Conscience,” Museum of Historical Memory and Human Rights, Santiago, Chile. Image at: http://www.designboom.com/architecture/the-geometry-of-conscience-memorial-by-alfredo-jaar/

A few weeks ago, the Chilean-born, New York-based artist, architect and filmmaker, Alfredo Jaar, was on campus to give a lecture which he titled, “It Is Difficult.” The title comes from William Carlos Williams: “It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack/of what is found there” [Asphodel, That Greeny Flower and Other Love Poems: That Greeny Flower].


Jaar has often taken on the difficult task of turning news into poetry, and his own poetry into news. He is well known for memorializing victims of the “dirty wars” in Chile and Argentina. He designed a deeply moving installation at Chile’s Museum of Historical Memory and Human Rights called “Geometry of Conscience.” His contribution to the Parque de la Paz (Peace Park) in Buenos Aires, “Punto Ciego (Blind Spot),” commemorating the thousands of victims of the Argentine military juntas, is a landmark work among those who labor to construct an architecture of memory that goes beyond history and into conscience. Continue reading