The Julia Stoschek Collection in Berlin is presenting American filmmaker and artist Arthur Jafa’s first solo exhibition in Germany. Don’t miss it!
Rare are the moments in which the grace of an image can be shaken in such a way as to become deeply inscribed in memory. Solange’s Don’t Touch My Hair and Cranes In The Sky are not only considered to be magnum opuses of contemporary pop from a musical point of view – the visual power and entrancing aesthetic of the two accompanying music videos seem overwhelming in their grandeur, even intimidatingly beautiful.
The gold-dipped body of the artist in front of a rugged rock face, the sparkling glitter in her hair, and the pared-down movements evade all reality. Seemingly fathomless in both depth and stillness, the colors, the clothing, the mood, the melody, and the verses meld into poetry on the reality of black life.
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Solange Knowles and her husband Alan Ferguson’s epic vision for both music videos was broken down to a few, pithy shots by Arthur Jafa. While the filmmaker, cameraman, and artist’s name may be largely unknown outside the US, his work certainly isn’t. He worked with director Stanley Kubrick on his last film, Eyes Wide Shut, as well as with Spike Lee on Crooklyn and Julie Dash on Daughters of the Dust, which inspired Beyoncé’s Lemonade. And let’s not forget the impressive videos for Beyoncé’s Formation and also 4:44 by Jay-Z, which also came from Jafa’s hand and are masterpieces in both their visuals and their content. “Film is one of the few things, particularly in the theatrical context, that takes up as much space as architecture but like music is fundamentally immaterial,” says Jafa.
Now Arthur Jafa is having his first solo exhibition in Germany at the Julia Stoschek Collection in Berlin. A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions is dedicated to the idea, perception, and alienation of black identity in the American-Western world. Jafa uses the technique of collage to collect found footage, mix it up, and play it off against itself in a kind of cultural comparison. Freed of any narrative, artifacts, imagery, and music of African-American – black – heritage collide in a – white-influenced – social and cultural arena. He picks up on this basic theme in various works in the show, starting with the video works Mix 1-4_Constantly Evolving and Black Flags, all the way to the Picture Books, which he has maintained since the 1990s as an image archive of various correlations and histories. The film work APEX brings the clash to a head: Here Mickey Mouse, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, the Death Star, and pictures of the Rwandan genocide collide to an electronic beat. Jafa says, “I hope I’m being as radical as I can about people’s assumptions about what black people are.”
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The artist sees his task as the creation of an aesthetic that does justice to the beauty and energy of African-American music in US culture. “Music is the one place where people can be as black as they are.” That’s not only the reason for his lifelong fascination with music, which runs throughout Jafa’s work and accompanies visitors to the exhibition from room to room via wireless headphones. A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions is as impressive as it is essential, an exhibition that uncovers the patterns and power relationships of visual culture and sets them against vivid black cinema.
Arthur Jafa – A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions is on show until November 25, 2018 at the Julia Stoschek Collection. The exhibition is complemented by photographs by Ming Smith, artist Frida Orupabo’s Instagram feed – @nemiepeba – and contributions from Missylanyus’ YouTube channel.
More information can be found here.
Fashion, art, and pop culture are her cosmos; the written word, the material she uses to bring it all together. After studying in Leipzig, Lola Fröbe moved to Berlin in 2014. She works as a PR consultant and freelance journalist for publications such as L'Officiel, i-D, and Material Magazine.