Over a long career, he has moved in and out of the worlds of film, music and art without ever making a permanent home in one. All of his work deals with the great and original creative power of Black American culture, as opposed to the harsh reality of Black American life.
Arthur Jafa born in Tupelo, Mississippi, first gained worldwide attention in 2016 with his video work Love is the Message, the Message is Death.
Running roughly eight minutes, the work is a virtuosic cut of viral videos and historical footage of American notables like Barack Obama, Serena Williams and Martin Luther King alongside news clips and handheld footage of police brutality against Black Americans, scored to the Kanye West song Ultralight Beam.
Deeply touching and scathing, Jafa’s work highlights the discrepancy between the fame and status of Black stars and the treatment of the African-American population in general.
Since childhood, Jafa has cultivated an obsession with cutting different pictures out of books and magazines and pasting them into new constellations in his own picture books. This still remains the starting point for his work today.
Jafa presents us with a volume of ready-made material combined to create new meaning in films, photographs and installations. Much of his material is sourced from popular culture, news footage and home videos online. The artist’s favourite resource is YouTube.