Arthur Jafa, Love is the Message, the Message is Death, 2016. Digital color video, with sound, 7 min., 25 sec.
Over the course of more than 30 years, Arthur Jafa (b. 1960, Tupelo, Mississippi; lives in New York) has examined prevailing assumptions about race and identity through an interdisciplinary practice that combines film, installation, sculpture, and performance. His much-celebrated 2016 video Love is the Message, the Message is Death (recently acquired by Pérez Art Museum Miami through the PAMM Collectors Council) captures the powerful emotions that underlie the African American experience, past and present. Encompassing scenes of heightened beauty and humor, as well as instances of horrific violence, the work testifies to the immense cultural achievements of African Americans while alluding to the pain and suffering that black people have endured throughout this country’s history. The artist set the video to the soaring, gospel-inspired 2016 song “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West, the lyrics of which redouble the sense of hope, suffering, and transcendence that envelops Jafa’s landmark creation.
(Image courtesy Arthur Jafa and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome.)