Slow Down and Smell the Theory ~ Alfredo Jaar
Well, I've been a great reader of this kind of literature for many years and I really think there has been a kind of revolution going on in the last 20, 30 years in the intellectual world.As a political theorist I find Jaar's work wonderfully provocative and his taste in "theory" unfortunate. Many (not all) of the writers he mentions are virtually impenetrable . Among the problems with progressive or leftist "theory" is that verbiage takes the place of analysis; not only is there a tendency to be Luddite with respect to the often very useful tools of standard social science, but there is a preoccupation with abstraction and a turning away from genuine political and economic problems.
If you read some of these texts by Stuart Hall, by Terry Eagleton, by Alain Badiou, by Jacques Rancière, Frederic Jameson, etc, etc. They are extraordinary texts and essays. They are very challenging. They are models of thinking the world and that's what I do as an artist. I create models of thinking the world.
So I wanted to share this knowledge with the public because people tend to go very quickly in a biennial. They move from work to work. They are stressed. They are rushed. They want to see everything, and so this is in a way a work that asks you to ‘stop, please stop, stay here, relax, take your time, why don't we think for a while?, let’s go in depth into these subjects.’
I'm an architect making art so basically when I was given the space I wanted to create a comfortable space where people could sit down, enjoy themselves, and have good light to read, be comfortable, to offer them a break in this rush around works. And basically we created the longest possible table to accommodate some 1,500 books.
So the centrepiece is this huge table and of course we made a funny allusion to Marxism and communism with the red walls and the neon sign that says Marx Lounge, and we have the red carpet and we decided on black sofas. So it’s a very striking colour decision. We took red and black. But it's really a comfortable place. It's a place that invites you to sit down and relax and read. It's a reading room.
I wanted people to stop in their tracks, because you can access the internet in your home and on your phones. There is so much technology today, but I think the book has this value of stopping you in your tracks of asking you to go deeper inside. I have the impression that technology keeps us on the surface.
It's very difficult to sit in front of a computer and go deep inside because your eyes get tired very quickly. You have to operate software. You have to operate the mouse, etc, etc. And you are distracted by mail, by different windows opening up and flash movies and things like that. So here it’s really about you and a world construction that is being made in front of your eyes by this author in the book. I wanted to slow down and technology goes too fast. I really wanted to slow down.
Liverpool has a long tradition of progressive politics and historically it's a place where workers have fought for so many rights and so I thought it was the right place to create a work like this.
By contrast, among the things I like about Jaar's art is the way he keeps his eye on the ball - that is, on the problems of people in the world. For a start, here as in past projects, aiming to get people to stop and see and think. So, while Jaar sees the parody being the red neon sign 'The Marx Lounge,' I take the "theory" being peddled in this garish decor redolent of a bordello.