Alfredo Jaar was in Toronto recently discussing, in particular, his public interventions: the part of his practice that takes confrontations with the problems and people of real life as its subject. This is in contrast to his practice in the art world or the white cube, which he understands to be insular and removed, and in contrast to his role as a teacher, exchanging his experience as an artist with those of new a generation. His presentation, so much like storytelling, was itself an example of what he terms “speaking between the lines,” a manner of communicating that encourages understanding by way of disarming authority. Jaar is the first to admit that there is no “outside the system,” that in the end “the system” takes everything back. What Jaar presented were his own attempts to create cracks in those systems which appear to be solid, be they national unity, nationalized appropriations of a continent, or immigration policies, for instance. It was heartening to hear him speak of his attempts to create novel models of thinking, arguing for new sounds and ideas, and against insularity; a gentle reminder that, yes, art can *do* things.


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