News — 28 Aug 2020
Arthur Jafa is among the most renowned artists working today. He is known for his video works that reflect on black culture, its complexities, beauty and representation in mass media. Comprised of writing, language, music, art, pop culture, and even food, black culture refers to the contributions of black people to culture throughout the world, whether as a part of or in addition to mainstream culture.
This exhibition features Apex, a 2013 video work by Jafa held within the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam collection. Over the course of approximately 8 minutes, the video brings together over 800 emotionally resonant images in the form of a rapid digital slideshow. These images have been carefully selected by Jafa over the course of decades and are set against the 1994 techno track “Minus” by musician Robert Hood. The relationships between these images, which are all laden with cultural referents and positive and negative charges, create what Jafa calls “spooky entanglements.” They seem plucked out of various corners of cultural memory: Pop symbols such as the Star Wars Death Star, Gollum, and Michael Jackson are interspersed with images of racialized violence, protests and gore, and are set against menacing scientific imagery such as startling microscopic views of insects, cosmic space scenes and menacing deep-sea creatures such as angler fish.
Given the rapid, graphic nature of such imagery, this video may be challenging to watch. As such, Jafa considers Apex both confrontational and meditative, and draws our attention to how society unevenly values black culture with the lives of black people.