The Sound of Silence
Wow, this installation from Alfredo Jaar @ Galerie Lelong was truly an experience I will always remember. Earlier in the day I had seen Jonathan Torgovnik’s photographs of Rwandan women who bore children after being raped by militia men during the 1994 genocide at the Aperture Foundation, so the idea of human suffering and the people who capture it in the perfect photograph was fresh in my mind. Wallking towards Jaar’s “Sound of Silence” you are immediately blinded by the fluorescent light bulbs. The structure is not illuminated from the inside where a video tells us about Kevin Carter. No one speaks in this video, it is white text on black background, chronicling Kevin Carter’s history and how he came to be the photographer who waited 20 minutes watching a vulture loom over a starving child in Sudan. After giving up on the photograph, he walks away from the situation. No one knows what may really have happened to the child. What we do end up knowing is that Kevin Carter committed suicide shortly after receiving a Pulitzer for the photograph.
The essence of this installation occurs near the end of the 8 minute video, in which four bright lights quickly go off and blind our eyes which have become accustomed to the darkness. The infamous photograph shows on the screen only for a moment…the decisive moment in which a reality becomes something we look back upon as a photograph. Entering the “Sound of Silence” we are only a voyeur, but we leave a victim.