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CIRCA 20:23

Alfredo Jaar, Tonight No Poetry Will Serve

3 - 30 November

CIRCA presents Tonight No Poetry Will Serve, a powerful reflection on the limits of language and the role of creative expression in times of tragedy by Chilean-born, New York-based artist Alfredo Jaar.

Launching 3 November at 20:23 GMT on London’s Piccadilly Lights, Jaar developed a bold new public intervention he describes as a lament for today’s darkness and a call to find the words to confront these tragic hours. The work displays the arresting title of a poem by Adrienne Rich (1929–2012), a figure of inspiration for Jaar since the 1980s, who observed the limits of words in times of unthinkable violence: “no poetry can serve to mitigate such acts, they nullify language itself,” she wrote in 2011. Throughout November, CIRCA and Jaar will invite dialogue through poetic commissions from international writers and speakers to be published online. Giving voice to those who find themselves silenced or without words, the poems hope to achieve Rich’s ambition that creative expression can reconcile conflicting realities.

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve confronts the harrowing loss of life the world is witnessing live on our screens since October 7. Throughout November, proceeds from the sale of a #CIRCAECONOMY print created by Jaar will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian organisation providing medical and psychological assistance to people affected by the long-term conflict and occupation in Palestine and 75 other countries. Exclusivey available to purchase on CIRCA.ART until 30 November 2023 by clicking here.

Alfredo Jaar is the recent winner of the 11th Hiroshima Art Prize, which recognizes the achievements of artists who have made the greatest contribution to the peace of humanity in the field of art in order to spread understanding of the “Spirit of Hiroshima” throughout the world. He is an architect, filmmaker and conceptual artist whose four-decade career has tackled social injustice, humanitarian crises and polarization. This has included spotlighting self-censorship in his native Chile during the military dictatorship of Pinochet and raising public and political consciousness with his 6-year-long Rwanda Project about the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Describing his project for CIRCA, the artist said: “Across the world, the public’s shock and compassion for the victims of violence first in Israel on October 7th and in occupied Palestine for the last 27 days has been joined, for many, by feelings of impotence and rage that we cannot do more — and our leaders will not do more — to stop the bloodshed. Our demands for a ceasefire, even warnings by the resigned Director of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that we must act now to prevent a genocide in occupied Palestine, have resulted in speakers facing reprimand or censorship, rather than determined actions being taken to make peace.

We are going through a very repressive moment, when nuance is lost and free speech is threatened. But I strongly believe that the spaces of art and culture must remain spaces of freedom. Artists will not be intimidated. In this environment, I have turned to the words of anti-war campaigner and poet Adrienne Rich to reflect both the limits of language and the frustration felt by many that voices for peace and justice cannot sound out as clearly as we wish. And, as part of the CIRCA commission, I am turning to today’s poets, writers, and artists, to support a forum for creative expression where the clear-sighted demands of humanity and empathy can be heard. In these times when politics have failed us miserably, art and culture are our only hope. Art is like the air we breathe, without art, life would be unlivable. Art creates spaces of resistance, spaces of hope.”

Tonight No Poetry Will Serve is the latest in more than 100 interventions in public space that Jaar has made over 42 years. The singular statement is the result of Jaar’s ambition to strip language to stark essentials, which has already produced his landmark A Logo for America, which lit up Times Square (1987) and also appeared on Piccadilly Lights (2016) as well as the Beckett-inspired I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On (2016).

Screen locations

20:24 (GMT) Piccadilly Lights

20:24 (CET) Kurfürstendamm

Yeongdong-daero 106-gil, 06170 Seoul, South Korea

Piazzale Luigi Cadorna 3, 20123 Milano, Lombardia Italia

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03/10/2023