Alfredo Jaar’s 1987 Video Intervention Retakes Times Square

Alfredo Jaar, A Logo for America (1987), Times Square. Photo: courtesy Alfredo Jaar.
Alfredo Jaar, A Logo for America (1987), Times Square. Photo: courtesy Alfredo Jaar.

Believe it or not, there’s a good reason to pay a late-night visit to New York’s Times Square in August, thanks to a month-long reenactment of A Logo for America, Chilean-born artist Alfredo Jaar’s iconic video project that took over the square’s Spectacolor Sign in 1987.

Each night, for three minutes before midnight, the flow of advertisements on 15 signs and 45 screens will give way to an image of the United States accompanied by the statement “This is not America.” Through the piece, Jaar challenges the common parlance that refers to one country by the name of the larger continent.

“Language is not innocent and reflects a geopolitical reality,” explained Jaar in a statement. “The use of the word America in the USA, erroneously referring only to the USA and not to the entire continent is a clear manifestation of the political, financial, and cultural domination of the USA of the rest of the continent.” Though nearly 30 years have passed since the original intervention, the US still has a monopoly on “America.”

A Logo for America is a seminal video public art work,” added Times Square Public Art director Sherry Dobbin. “The image has become synonymous with both Alfredo Jaar and Times Square, and represents the power of artist, place, and politics coming together.”

The video project is part of the ongoing “Midnight Moment” series introduced by the Times Square Advertising Coalition and Times Square Arts in May 2012, which transforms the square’s signs and video billboards into a digital art gallery for three minutes each night. It also accompanies the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum‘s “Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today,” on view at the museum through October 1 as part of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative.

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