Athar Jaber

Athar Jaber
A mask for life

Written by Francesca Interlenghi 
May 2020

The human story of Athar Jaber , marked at the same time by the images of the Gulf War with which he grew up and by the classic ideal of beauty cultivated in Florence, translates into a sculptural language that in the coexistence of opposites – violence and beauty, Eros and Thanatos, good and evil – investigates the great theme of existence by faithfully representing its intrinsic, though sometimes monstrous, components of its nature.

“The etymology of the word monstrosity refers to the complex roles that monsters play within society. Monster comes from the Latin monstrare, which means to demonstrate, and from monere which means to warn. The monsters, in essence, are demonstrative, they reveal an inconvenient truth. “

The result is an aesthetic of the work immersed in reality, open to reality and permeated with it, willing to welcome harmony and peace but also decline and decay with the same benevolence. Here then is that in the mutilated faces, in the bodies violated by their integrity, in the missing portions, in the alternation of emptiness and fullness, we can read the lacerations of the present, the loss of identity, the very fragility of the contemporary human being.

“We talk about perfection, but does it really exist? What is that? A thoroughbred breed? An athletic body? An immaculate skin? Peace on earth? In this case then perfection does not represent nature but an unattainable Platonic ideal – and perhaps even ethically incorrect. Do we want to talk about utopia or reality? I’m interested in the representation of reality. And I believe that perfection lies in the fidelity with which this is presented. “

And it is precisely by moving from a given reality, that of the current pandemic that is affecting all of humanity, that Jaber felt the urgency to contribute as an artist, as well as as a human being, to the fight against CODIV-19.

Declining his production in a moral key, the artist has decided to inaugurate a fundraising initiative through the A Mask for life project , created in partnership with UNHCR.

Ten masks carved in marble whose proceeds from the sale will be donated to the United Nations agency specializing in the management of refugees to support the procurement of life-saving supplies for the less privileged people of the planet.

The masks have become a symbol of the collective struggle against the virus. Obviously, those of Jaber do not in themselves have the property of protecting against the risk of contagion, but they can help to do so through their purchase. Because although it seems obvious to us to have the possibility of staying indoors, we must not forget that there are those who do not have a home, do not have the luxury of being able to protect themselves or their family and cannot even practice social distancing. Around 70 million people around the world are forced into refugee camps, crowded and helpless in the face of the looming pandemic. An emergency scenario that becomes even more dramatic when one thinks of the impact and repercussions it could have on migrants and stateless persons.

“The worst of crises requires the best of humanity,” commented Filippo Grandi, as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The etymology of the word art seems to derive from the Aryan root ar- which in Sanskrit means to go towards, and in a translated sense, to adapt, to make, to produce. We find this root in the Latin ars, artis. Originally, therefore, the word had a practical meaning in the sense of ability in a productive activity, the ability to do harmoniously, in a suitable way.

And nothing seems to me more suited to the circumstances of this project, a happy synthesis of ethics and aesthetics, attributable to a broader thought that responding to the hashtag #antiviralart, coined by his friend and sculptor Jago, will see both artists committed to proposing a paradigm shift in this sense. While everyone wants to be viral, present in a widespread manner on social media platforms, the whole world is fighting a fight against something, the virus, which has become viral despite us.

“It is not just a play on words but rather a reflection of a deeper meaning: if art has the possibility of healing the soul, the mind and the spirit, it can also take on a more concrete role for the well-being of humanity . As in this case, where the sale of the works can actually save lives.”

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