Alfredo Jaar

Searching for Africa in LIFE

Date: 1996

Technique: 5 C-print affixed to plexiglas

Dimensions: 152,4 x 101,6 cm each

Edition: 1/3

Es Baluard Museu d'Art Contemporani de Palma

Reg. no.: 625

Entry date: 2009

On display

Images are not innocent in Alfredo Jaar’s mind; each one represents an ideological concept of the world. We all have a commitment to this world and to act within in it, we first have to understand it and the mass media are fundamental for this. Searching for Africa in LIFE (1996) is the result of Jaar’s interest in the communications media, photojournalism, focussing on the coverage of the African continent carried out by the American LIFE magazine from 1936 to 1996, the year
when this work was created.

Using a composition formed by five digital photographs, Jaar covers every one of the magazine’s front covers from those 60 years, a total of 2128 – placed in chronological order – to reflect the scant coverage of Africa by one of the most influential magazines in the world. Five alone refer to the continent but in them only photographs of animals are shown, completely sidestepping the troubles of the population; a criticism of the image of Africa (or the “non-image”) the publication gave to society.

The appropriation of these magazine covers is a formula that Jaar adopts in other significant pieces like (Untitled) Newsweek (1994) and From Time to Time (2006). In this latter work he exposes the three themes on Africa dealt with the most by the Western media: animals, famine and disease.


Artist biography