Chilean-born artist Alfredo Jaar’s digital animation A Logo for America was commissioned by The Public Art Fund and shown for the first time as a Spectacolor sign in Times Square in New York in 1987. The video shown here documents the original presentation as well as three subsequent public installations in New York (2014), Mexico City (2015) and London (2016). The animation opens with an image of the continental United States, superimposed by the words This Is Not America. What follows is a cycle of pixelated signs and words less than a minute long in which the “r” of “America” turns into a map of the whole of the Americas—North, Central, and South.
When it was first shown in 1987, Jaar’s work stirred considerable controversy as it followed a series of US interventions in the Americas and many considered it to be a critical comment on US foreign policy at the time. Interestingly, A Logo for America seems more relevant than ever in light of recent political developments, especially the increasing tension between the United States and Mexico and the travel ban against several predominantly Muslim countries. Jaar’s work, which often deals with immigration, raises the question of what defines the United States as a sovereign nation? And how intrinsically are we part of a larger whole?
A Logo for America, 1987 Video, with music by Nicolas Jaar; 5:07 min. Alfredo Jaar (Chilean, born 1956)
Courtesy the Public Art Fund, New York Galerie Lelong, New York, and the artist, New York.