Our present day is too complex to be comprehended unambiguously. There are numerous artists who talk about this phenomenon, like William Kentridge who addresses the issue of History, which should be conceived according to various perspectives and no longer only that of the old dominant viewpoints (see the report on him).
The Creole writer Edouard Glissant, often evoked by Hans Ulrich Obrist, also discusses this “archipelization” of thinking.
The remote control effect
Trivially speaking, this idea of channel-hopping between information which forms a whole that’s both deliberately incoherent yet articulate and true to reality, was most likely facilitated – perhaps in the 1980s? – through the modern-day use of the remote control, which enabled, in a unity of time and space, access to a profusion of disjointed images and, more specifically, access to a range of television programs.
The American artist who’s based in Los Angeles, Arthur Jafa (born in 1960), has made three films that have transformed him into a new master of the field, not only because he uses and assembles images found online but also because he showcases them with a unifying soundtrack, which makes them resonate in a hypnotic way.
America’s black population
His subject is first and foremost the treatment of America’s black population.
Love is The Message. The Message is Death
This is also his principal target audience. And his masterpiece, dating from 2016, is “Love is The Message, The Message is Death” which has led to him receiving a prize from the Prince Pierre Foundation in Monaco on 31 October 2019 (1), awarded by Princess Caroline.
The work is being screened for the occasion in Turin at the Palazzo Madama until 13 November.
The film is also part of the collections at New York’s Metropolitan Museum, the Julia Stoscheck collection in Berlin, and Maja Hoffmann’s Luma Foundation (see the report I dedicated to Arthur Jafa in 2017 on the occasion of his exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London). “Love is The Message, The Message is Death” is, incidentally, accompanied by the song “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West in a version that he has reworked, but without requesting permission from the superstar rapper.
Arthur Jafa also received a Golden Lion as part of the Venice Biennale 2019 when he displayed his “White Album”, a video addressing American white supremacists along with more benevolent white people. (See his interview from last April on the subject).
At the time of the opening of the Venice Biennale he was planning a Hollywood-scale film which it would seem is on hold for the moment.
His prize from Monaco
I interviewed Arthur Jafa during his stay in Turin, where he was travelling to receive his prize from Monaco. Suffering from a bad case of jet lag, he was less articulate and enthusiastic than usual, but his remarks were just as relevant.
A prize of 75,000 euros awarded every three years, whose vice president is Marie-Claude Beaud, one of the great women in French contemporary art who is now directing museums in Monaco.
In painting, Kerry James Marshall (born in 1955) often exhibits large-scale genre scenes depicting reality for African-Americans. Their abundant style is marked by the presence of figures painted black like shadows, as a statement of the extent of their absence from the social sphere. He is one of today’s leading African-American painters (see the report on the subject) The Gavin Brown gallery refused to give us extracts of “Love is The Message, The Message is Death”.
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