Arthur Jafa: A Series of Utterly Improbable, yet Extraordinary Renditions
Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin, Germany11 Feb 2018 - 25 Nov 2018
“How do we imagine things that are lost? What kind of legacy can we imagine despite that loss and despite the absence of things that never were?” –Arthur Jafa
The Julia Stoschek Collection presents the work of the acclaimed US filmmaker, cinematographer and artist Arthur Jafa in his first exhibition in Germany, featuring Ming Smith, Frida Orupabo, and Missylanyus. The exhibition was developed in partnership with Serpentine Galleries, London and curated by Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Amira Gad (first presented June 8–September 10, 2017).
Across three decades, Jafa has developed a dynamic, multidisciplinary practice ranging from films and installations to lecture-performances and happenings that tackle, challenge and question prevailing cultural assumptions about identity and race. Jafa’s work is driven by a recurrent question: how might one identify and develop a specifically Black visual aesthetics equal to the “power, beauty and alienation” of Black music in US culture?
The title of the exhibition A SERIES OF UTTERLY IMPROBABLE, YET EXTRAORDINARY RENDITIONS relates to the sense of absence that Jafa observes as haunting Black life. The word “rendition” refers to the artist’s interpretation of the aesthetics associated with Black being, which are historically-inscribed in images, objects and artefacts. By re-performing these narratives in the present, Jafa imagines and constructs new possibilities for making them visible.
Jafa creates work that approximates the radical alienation of Black life in the West while seeking to make visible—or emancipate—the power embedded in modes of African expression. With reference points ranging from Fang sculpture to Mississippi juke joints, Duchamp’s urinal to jazz, he is a filmmaker with a unique understanding of how to cut and juxtapose a sequence to draw out maximum visceral effect. By presenting the content that is historically embedded within an African American understanding of Blackness, Jafa proposes a scenario in which these histories might hold a universal significance if freed from a fixed set of discourses.
Jafa has also collaborated with directors ranging from Spike Lee (Crooklyn, 1994) to John Akomfrah (Seven Songs for Malcom X,1993) and artists including Kara Walker and Fred Moten. He has also been recognised for his work on the Solange Knowles videos Don’t Touch My Hair and Cranes in The Sky (2016). Explaining his favourite medium, Jafa has said: “Film is one of the few things, particularly in the theatrical context, that takes up as much space as architecture but like music is fundamentally immaterial.”
A SERIES OF UTTERLY IMPROBABLE, YET EXTRAORDINARY RENDITIONS also includes the work of three additional voices: the photographer Ming Smith, @nemiepeba—the lnstagram feed of artist Frida 0rupabo—and content from the YouTube channel of Missylanyus. Together, these three “platforms” or “guests” are integral to Jafa’s presentation in the Gallery, and acknowledge the influence of others within his own practice.
Accompanying the exhibition, a catalogue will be published in February 2018, among others with texts by John Akomfrah, Judith Butler, Jean Baudrillard, Hans Ulrich Obrist, Arthur Jafa and Fred Moten.
Monday, 12 February 2018, 7 p.m.
On the occasion of Arthur Jafa’s exhibition critic Jörg Heiser talks to Jafa about his work, Black visual aesthetics, Science Fiction, and resonances in specific local contexts such as Germany’s.
Julia Stoschek Collection
Leipziger Strasse 60
(Entrance: Jerusalemer Strasse)