With a career spanning more than three decades, spent between museums and the cinema, the artist, director, and cinematographer Arthur Jafa is one of the central figures of contemporary American culture, having worked with the likes of Spike Lee, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z. His work has examined the representation of black people, through images, movement, form, and sound, questioning the universal and specific discourses about being black. There is a recurring question in his work: How can visual media faithfully convey the intrinsic "power, beauty, and alienation" of certain forms of black music in US culture?
Arthur Jafa won the Golden Lion for best artist at this year’s Venice Biennale. In this conversation, moderated by the director of the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Philippe Vergne, Jafa will talk about how he finds a visual correspondence in his work of black music, which he calls "black visual intonation". The frame rates of the photos and videos on-screen are quickly manipulated to highlight the subtleties of appearance, expression, emotion, and movement, enabling the artist to transmit certain feelings and aural sensations. The artist will also talk about the status of black artists in contemporary art and pop culture, and will argue that black cultural production is still constantly in “free fall” from a spiritual and emotional place that is laden with pain, feelings of loss and lack of resources.