Alfredo Jaar. A Hundred Times Nguyen

Alfredo Jaar. A Hundred Times Nguyen
Temporary exhibition
Author(s): 
Alfredo Jaar
27/05/2011
- 28/08/2011
Floor: 
-1
Curator: 
Jean-François Chougnet
Alfredo Jaar. A Hundred Times Nguyen
Temporary exhibition
Author(s): 
Alfredo Jaar
27/05/2011
- 28/08/2011
Floor: 
-1
Curator: 
Jean-François Chougnet
Body: 

Born in Santiago do Chile in 1956, Alfredo Jaar has a talent for asking uncomfortable questions in the most straightforward and factual manner. In one of his most iconic works, presented here for the first time in Portugal, he asks one of the most pertinent questions that could ever be asked about the complex world we live in. A Hundred Times Nguyen (1994) is a kind of scrapbook of his visit to a Vietnamese refugee camp in Hong Kong in 1991 where he met little Nguyen Thi Thuy. In honour to the children born in the camp, and from among the 1,378 photographs he took during his time there, he chose to publish only the portrait of this girl, which he repeats one hundred times. Jaar photographed her five times at 5-second intervals.

As the French philosopher Jacques Rancière once said in reference to another of Alfredo Jaar's works, Rwanda Project (1994-2000), in which he placed the pictures of massacred Tutsis inside a box: 'The image was concealed, but the box contained the written name and history of each person. In that way, Jaar showed that the one million victims were one million individuals and that they were not an indistinct mass pre-destined for a common grave, but people just as human as ourselves.'

Resisting the temptation to show others as just an indistinct and suffering visual mass, Alfredo Jaar portrays them as individuals with a past, people capable of speaking or remaining quiet, of displaying (or not) the scars of their pain and suffering and thus rediscovering the righteous path of politics. In this picture, what we have is a three-way interplay between the little Vietnamese girl, the observer and the artist as mediator. One of his early works which brought him instant international recognition – Rushes (1986) – contains an image of a young Brazilian miner, about whom the artist commented: 'I like the way he looks at the photographer, at me, and at you.'

Jean-François Chougnet, curator

Secondary text: 

'A face is not just an identity; it is also a communication device.'
Gerardo Mosquera, artistic director for Photo España 2011