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Arts

Arthur Jafa: Golden Lion Awarded Artist in Piraeus

September 6, 2022

In the context of Greece in USA, the non-profit organization for the promotion of contemporary Greek culture in the US that showcased 150 Greek artists in New York, Dr. Sozita Goudouna conceives and organizes in collaboration with the artistic director of the Municipal Theater of Piraeus the new cultural platform ARTPORT II. The inaugural exhibitions focus on cultural partnerships between the US and Greece and present artistic experimentation in the visual and performing arts at the Pοrt Authority Warehouse at the port of Piraeus.

Piraeus Artport II presents, for the first time in Greece, Arthur Jafa, one of the most prominent American artists awarded with the 2019 Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion, for his work Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death.

As a visual artist, filmmaker and theorist Arthur Jafa examines the history and life experience of African American people. Set to the searing highs and lows of Kanye West’s gospel-inspired hip-hop track, Ultralight Beam, Love Is The Message is a masterful convergence of found footage that traces African-American identity through a vast spectrum of contemporary imagery. From photographs of civil rights leaders watermarked with Getty Images to helicopter views of the LA Riots to a wave of bodies dancing to The Dougie, the meticulously edited 7-minute video suspends viewers in a swelling, emotional montage that is a testament to Jafa’s profound ability to mine, scrutinize, and reclaim media’s representational modes and strategies.

Love is the Message, The Message is Death, 2016. Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery

Alongside segments of familiar Black icons and historic events are also scenes featuring lesser known figures: anonymous bodies in various states of elation and despair. Excerpts from Jafa’s own stunning documentary film, Dreams are Colder than Death (2012) inflects a personal dimension to imagery mostly drawn from news media, television and the Internet. In this pointed inclusion, Jafa discloses both his vulnerability and authority as an artist – what it means to contribute to the vast and complex terrain of Black representation. While Love Is The Message poignantly embodies the artist’s desire to create a cinema that “replicates the power, beauty and alienation of Black Music,” it is also a reminder that the collective multitude defining Blackness is comprised of singular individuals, manifold identities and their unaccountable differences.

“What would America be like if we loved Black people as much as we love Black culture?” a young lady facing the camera wonders, while someone states: “We (Blacks) are not aliens”. As the video unfolds, we observe the struggle for the civil rights of Black American people from the early days of M. L. King to the present. Meanwhile the video includes video collages of powerful figures representing American black culture such as Hortense Spillers, Louis Farrakhan Sr., Miles Davis and the Notorious B.I.G., as well as the Americans who continue to fight every day for civil rights nowadays.

Artport aims to investigate both the visual and aesthetic potential of experimentation in visual arts, especially in the context of contemporary Art Exhibitions as well as the Piraeus cultural environment. The programme was introduced back in September 8, 2021 with the first solo exhibition Torture by Andres Serrano in Athens, one of the most established American artists, who introduced the new space of the Theatre at OLP Wearhouse E3 and the presentation of the video installation with the title The Airport by John Akomfrah at the main stage of the Municipal Theater of Piraeus.

 

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