Blessed being Black
“The fundamental state of Blackness is something that I am interested in.”
Meet one of the truly extraordinary artists of our time, Arthur Jafa. A while ago we visited him at his studio in Los Angeles for a talk about his amazing work Love is the message, The message is death (2018). Now he came to Denmark in connection with his show MagnumB at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, that shows a number of Jafa’s groundbreaking works. Read more …
“It’s a challenge to me to be born as a man in this world. It’s a challenge to be born as a white person in this world. Those are challenges. The only thing that matters in life is what you make of your circumstances.”
Meet one of the truly extraordinary artists of our time, Arthur Jafa. A while ago we visited him at his studio in Los Angeles for a talk about his amazing work Love is the message, The message is death (2018). Now he came to Denmark in connection with his show MagnumB at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, that shows a number of Jafa’s groundbreaking works.
“The fundamental state of blackness is something that I am interested in”, says Jafa in this comprehensive, but at the same time ever more personal interview. “A lot of my impulse being analytical certainly comes out of growing up in very emotional spaces. The nature of black being, who and what we are, is a product of non-consensual, genetic and cultural exchange. Often I have to remind myself and other people: Black people are human beings as well.”
“If you take Greek or Roman sculpture and it is pointing at the sky, you will say, hey this is man’s ambition. If you paint that same sculpture black, it gets narrowed down to that black man’s ambition. A black figure can’t be standing in for human kind.”
“The irony or paradoxical thing about black being is: Black people are both an emblem of abjection, but at the same time they are an emblem of possibility. Not just the thing that destroyed you, but that made you.”
Jafa continues reflecting upon the power and importance of language, images, communication. “In the world we are living in, we know that it’s complexity even outruns the capacity of the more powerful to control it. They can’t control what is happening in the world. They can’t make Arab Spring or the Civil Rights Movement not happen. It doesn’t matter, how much military, economic power they have, they can’t control the world. But what they can control is spin. They can control what something exploding is supposed to mean. So to a certain degree there is a political dimension to my practice. It really is about trying to destabilize the mechanisms that try to make us come to whatever conclusion they decide we should come to.”
“By teaching that the Civil Rights Movement was a mass movement, what you are doing is undermining the idea that a few people can make change. Individual and small groups of individuals can function catalytically though. That’s what should be being taught.”
Arthur Jafa (b. 1960) is an American Mississippi-born visual artist, film director, and cinematographer. Jafa has exhibited widely including at the Hirshhorn in Los Angeles, Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, Tate Liverpool in Liverpool, Serpentine Galleries in London and lately at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. His work as a cinematographer with directors such as Spike Lee and Stanley Kubrick has been notable, and his work on ‘Daughters of the Dust’ (1991) won the ‘Best Cinematography’ Award at Sundance. In 2019, Jafa was awarded the Golden Lion for best artist at the Venice Biennale for his film ‘The White Album’. Jafa has also worked as a director of photography on several music videos, including for Solange Knowles and Jay-Z. Jafa co-founded TNEG with Malik Sayeed, a “motion picture studio whose goal is to create a black cinema as culturally, socially and economically central to the 21st century as was black music to the 20th century.” He lives and works in Los Angeles.
Arthur Jafa was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner in July 2021 in connection with his exhibition MagnumB at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk, Denmark. The video excerpts shown in the video are all part of this exhibition.
Camera: Klaus Elmer
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2021
Supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond
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