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Alfredo Jaar. Hasselblad Award 2020. Whispers and Cries.

The Hasselblad Award honours major achievements in photography within various genres and expressions, offering a nuanced view of the field of photography.

Rather than being a photographer in a conventional sense, the fortieth Hasselblad Award winner, Alfredo Jaar, is an architect and artist who explores, and re-stages existing photographs in groundbreaking ways. His research into what he calls “the politics of images” are firmly rooted in photography, problematizing ideas of objective realities and universal truths. He has consistently scrutinised the representation of war, conflict, and human suffering in press photography and mainstream media. Jaar’s poignant works not only focus our attention upon matters of burning concern but also upon how we look at photographs and the conditions framing their meaning.

This exhibition brings together four of Alfredo Jaar’s seminal works. The large-scale installation Shadows from 2014 captures the bodily expressions of anguish and despair in press photos from the Nicaraguan revolution. An interview with photojournalist Koen Wessing, whose photographs make up the core of Jaar’s piece, is also included in the exhibition. Untitled (Newsweek) from 1994 investigates the indifference and inaction of the Global North to the genocide in Rwanda that claimed over one million lives. Searching for Africa in LIFE from 1996 addresses the consistent absence of references to the African continent in Life magazine. You Do Not Take a Photograph, You Make It from 2013 summarizes a view that permeates Jaar’s entire oeuvre; that photography does not passively reflect a reality but rather holds the ability to portray subjective realities. In all his work, Alfredo Jaar strives to make sense of a world marked by human struggle – and the reluctance to face that struggle.

The exhibition title is an homage to Ingmar Bergman, a significant influence on Jaar’s practice. The film title Cries and Whispers is reversed in Swedish to ‘whispers and cries’, indicating how the works in the exhibition speak to the viewer.

Credits: Alfredo Jaar, Shadows, 2014 Mixed media installation