By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Ironically, the most politically and aesthetically engaging video is made by a South American artist — also the most famous. Alfredo Jaar is a Chilean-born New York artist who has been producing globally inflected political art since the early ’80s, including the extensive multimedia Rwanda Project (1994-2000). Muxima (2005) uses multiple versions of a traditional popular song from Angola with beautiful visual sequences of empty architectural spaces, an AIDS hospice, children playing, and — most disturbingly — the methodical location and detonation of ubiquitous land mines.
Jaar’s work epitomizes the socially conscious and technologically sophisticated art-world lingua franca supported by progressive institutions throughout the industrialized world. “Continental Rifts” is an indication of that network’s willingness to create a place that will accommodate the emergence of a slate of African (or Africa-adjacent) artists willing to explore the video medium within the easily parse-able poetics of this tradition. Which is fine. I can’t shake the suspicion that there may be something a little more radical brewing in the hands of less Westernized practitioners — something akin to El Anatsui’s reimagined metallic kente cloth, or Thomas Mapfumo’s reinvention of traditional Zimbabwean thumb-piano music for the electric guitar.
And given the state of the world, I’m not sure the great Western intellectual juggernaut is in any position to be suggesting modes of expression to cultures that date back to the dawn of human consciousness. Especially when they’re already so proficient at turning the industrial world’s trash into exquisite and profoundly meaningful artifacts. Give it a century — we’ll see whose paradigm survives for how and why our species makes art.
CONTINENTAL RIFTS: CONTEMPORARY TIME-BASED WORKS OF AFRICA and TRANSFORMATIONS: RECENT CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN ?ACQUISITIONS Fowler Museum at UCLA, 308 Charles E. Young Drive North, L.A. ?Through June 14
At the Fowler on Thursday, April 23, at 7 p.m., exhibition curator Polly Roberts joins with video artist Doug Aitken and LA>