Alfredo Jaar

Mar. 23 - June 30, 2024

Alfredo Jaar: be afraid of the enormity of the possible

The Kestner Gesellschaft is thrilled to introduce a new commission for its building’s facade: BE AFRAID OF THE ENORMITY OF THE POSSIBLE by acclaimed Chilean artist Alfredo Jaar.

From yellow through orange down to red, we move along the layers of meaning which evokes the sense of fear, abundance and possibility, all in all intertwined and dependent, as a threat and a promise, a warning and a challenge. The colours of radiating neon light are simultaneously alarming and smoothing; at the confluence of seduction and vigilance, we are caught between a thrill of an unavoidable danger and an allure of a risky pleasure. Jaar’s work BE AFRAID OF THE ENORMITY OF THE POSSIBLE appropriates a quote from the Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran (1911–1995). Cioran is one of Alfredo Jaar’s favorite writers and is frequently quoted by the artist. According to Jaar, Cioran is the poet of pessimism, and the writer who best expresses the duality of the contemporary condition and its strenuous harmony torn between despair and joy.

This particular quote was selected by the artist because of its deep ambiguity. As is his modus operandi, Cioran expresses here an idea and its possible contrary. He does this with exceptional force and clarity. The “possible” in this quote will remain unknown. It is up to the audience to read this statement in positive or negative terms. Jaar’s work reflects in its glowing glory the paradoxical quality of Cioran’s writing. By displaying a potentially positive and negative message at the same time, the artist creates a monument to uncertainty for the dark times in which we live. Jaar’s BE AFRAID OF THE ENORMITY OF THE POSSIBLE is a warning against apathy. It forces us to think about the magnitude of what is possible—of what humanity is capable. Jaar’s artwork aims at enlightening the viewers, placing on them responsibility for action or inaction in times of ethical dilemma.

Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of the radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.

Hannah Arendt / Alfredo Jaar

Alfredo Jaar (born 1956, Santiago de Chile, Chile) is an artist, architect, and filmmaker who fled Chile under Pinochet’s military dictatorship and immigrated to New York in 1982 where he currently lives and works. His work has been shown extensively around the world. He has participated in the Biennales of Venice (1986, 2007, 2009, 2013), Sao Paulo (1987, 1989, 2010, 2021) as well as Documenta in Kassel (1987, 2002).

Important individual exhibitions include The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1992); Whitechapel, London (1992); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (1994); The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (1995); and The Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome (2005). Major recent surveys of his work have taken place at Musée des Beaux Arts, Lausanne (2007); Hangar Bicocca, Milan (2008); Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlinische Galerie and Neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst e.V., Berlin (2012); Rencontres d’Arles (2013); KIASMA, Helsinki (2014); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK (2017); Zeitz MOCAA, Cape Town, South Africa (2020); SESC Pompeia, Sao Paulo (2021) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima (2023).

The artist has realized more than seventy public interventions around the world. Over sixty monographic publications have been published about his work. He became a Guggenheim Fellow in 1985 and a MacArthur Fellow in 2000. He received the Hiroshima Art Prize in 2018 and the Hasselblad Award in 2020. His work can be found in the collections of major museums and private collections worldwide.

We would like to thank the GALERIE THOMAS SCHULTE.

Curators: Adam Budak, Robert Knoke

Learn more about Alfredo Jaar in the exhibition Handout.

Installation Images

Alfredo Jaar BE AFRAID OF THE ENORMITY OF THE POSSIBLE, Installation view, 2024, Courtesy the Artist, Photo: Volker Crone.

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