DBPFP 2023 : Arthur Jafa

Split screen photograph of two Black men musicians looking straight at the camera smoking a cigarette at the same angle by Arthur Jafa at the photographers gallery

DBPFP 2023 : Arthur Jafa

Sculptural work of a slave's scarified back by arthur jafa

Arthur Jafa is nominated for his exhibition Live Evil at LUMA, Arles, France (14 April – 13 November 2022). 

Arthur Jafa (b.1960, United States) is an artist who draws on his substantial collection of images and film to work through the question of what might constitute a Black aesthetic.

Jafa lays bare anguish, outrage, power and pleasure by placing one resonant cultural artefact next to another, to reference and question the universal and specific articulations of Black experience.

Since the 1980s, Jafa has been accumulating and assembling pictures from books and magazines, arranging this imagery in new constellations within notebooks and latterly within dynamic artworks. For ready-made moving images, YouTube remains a favourite resource, alongside news footage and home video. Eschewing a linear narrative, Jafa organises his material through formal and affective associations, linking his images through visual resemblance or thematic resonance. In this way Jafa aspires to an art that harnesses “the power, beauty, and alienation of Black music.”

How can visual media - such as objects, static and moving images - transmit the equivalent power, beauty and alienation embedded within forms of Black music in US culture?

- Arthur Jafa

How easily and gradually objects can become people. How easily and gradually people can become objects, or merchandise. We can think about this in terms of colonial histories and current extractive labour instances but we can also think about it in terms of art making.

Jace Clayton - DBPFP 2023 catalogue

Arthur Jafa talks to David Velasco, Artforum’s editor-in-chief, about his nominated project Live Evil

About Arthur

Jafa first came to renown as a cinematographer; his cinematic debut as Director of Photography on Julie Dash’s seminal 1991 Daughters of the Dust earned a Sundance award, and he subsequently worked on films by Spike Lee, Isaac Julien, John Akomfrah, Kara Walker and Fred Moten, and on music videos for Solange Knowles and Jay-Z.

Jafa’s films have garnered international acclaim and his artwork is represented in celebrated collections worldwide. Recent solo exhibitions of his work include OGR Torino; LUMA Arles; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museu de Arte Contemporânea de

Serralves, Porto; the Louisiana Museum of Art, Denmark; and the Serpentine Gallery, London. In 2019, he received the Golden Lion for the Best Participant of the 58th Venice Biennale ‘May You Live in Interesting Times’.