Arthur Jafa’s radical video work that has sparked debate about race relations in the US is coming to Tate Liverpool this year.
Helen Legg, the gallery director, said that Arthur Jafa’s Love is the Message, The Message is Death (2016) “speaks of our current political moment with great urgency; we felt it important to bring it to Liverpool and are delighted to be the first British gallery outside London to show it.”
Jafa’s montage collects and plays different clips taken from the news, police footage and pop-culture videos. Moments include a police officer throwing a teenage girl to the ground at a pool party in Texas, Barack Obama singing Amazing Grace at the eulogy for the victims of the Charleston church shooting, Martin Luther King waving from a car, as well as Beyonce in her video for 7/11. Jafa adds footage that he has also taken including his daughter’s wedding, his mother dancing as well as clips from previous works.
In addition, the video shows a recurring image of the sun. To that, Jafa said that “the sun is the appropriate scale at which to consider what’s going on. It’s fundamentally an assertion that black people’s lives should be seen on a cosmological level…I want you to look up at these things that are happening to Black people, not down – the way you would stare at the sun.”
Jafa is an important film director, cinematographer, and visual artist who has largely collaborated with musicians and directors like Stanley Kubrick, Spike Lee, Jay-Z, and Solange Knowles. “I have a very simple mantra and it’s this: I want to make black cinema with power, beauty, and alienation of black music. That’s my big goal.” Jafa said of his work. “The larger preoccupation is how do we force cinema to respond to the existential, political and spiritual dimensions of who we are as a people. Music to me is a convenient marker of that. Music is the one space in which we know we have totally actualized ourselves; we don’t ever have to write another song to contribute as magnificently as already have. So a cinema like the music – that’s what Love is the Message is trying to do.”
His work was acquired last November in a joint effort by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. It is scheduled to show at Tate Liverpool on the 29th of March through the 12th of May.