Arthur Jafa: What We Don’t See

‘A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions’

Serpentine Sackler Gallery, 8 June – 10 September 2017

Arthur Jafa, A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions (installation view), 2017. Image courtesy the artist and Serpentine Galleries.

The most common form of colour blindness in the human eye is the inability to see red or green. In one corner of Arthur Jafa’s dense, swirling exhibition of photography, video and objects at the Serpentine Gallery is LeRage (2017), a large stand up cut-out of the comic book character the Hulk angrily pulverising the ground on which he stands. The normally radioactive-green figure is here rendered how a colour-blind person might see him: in a dark greyscale, in turn suggesting that Hulk, with all his explosive fury, is a black man. Save a few clips of grainy video, most of Jafa’s installation is similarly in stark black and white, with a sense of underlying rage that is anything but colour-blind. Surrounding us with countless images of bodies – from icons like Mickey Mouse, to self-portraits and historical photographs from Jim Crow-era America – Jafa insists we notice skin colour, and acknowledge the politics of its presence and presentations. Continue reading

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Customer Request #235PRM

From: Input Volunteer 255738

To: Andy

Date: 15 October 2012 17:55

Subject: Re: Prime Volunteer Opportunity

Hi Andy,

I’m sorry I can’t help you further. Please remove me from your records.

On 6 May 17: 43 <andy@koan.org> wrote:

Dear Volunteer,

Our client has requested further data submission for this transaction. While our budget does not permit further compensation for your participation, it will distinguish you as one of our prime volunteers, which may secure further participation in our clients’ recall requests. The client has requested particularly personal information, emotional sensory input and events in your private life leading up to the event in question.

This may include:

From: Input Volunteer 255738

To: Andy

Date: 15 October 2012 17:03

Subject: Re: EXTENDED SERVICE PO E4436580

Hi Andy,

Please find below my ‘expanded event report’ for submission. I hope this might satisfy the client this time:

I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for. I’m too aware now that the ironies of providing recall details for an event about memory are readily at hand. My initial notes towards this report – my expectations of some of the speakers, particular songs and musicians I was listening to that marathon weekend, as well as a count of how many times the word ‘madeleine’ was said – are lost when my computer is wiped. The dome of the marathon closes with Douglas Gordon leading a go at the Scottish folk song ‘Bonny Glen Shee,’ singing like a wistfully out of tune school boy, ‘with their broadswords on their shoulders and….damn.’ Forgetting the next line: With their muskets on their shoulders and their broadswords hanging down. But the particular, and maybe predictable, gaps, lapses and failures of talking about memory aren’t nearly as interesting as their textures. I guess that’s what you guys want. John Giorno might have left out the last line of his impeccably long recital of ‘Where were you in ‘63 when JFK died,’ but recalling the death of William S. Burroughs, I see the way he steps back and forth on the balls of his feet, and though he is born in New York, all I hear is a Midwestern accent. They buried Burroughs with his .38 snubnose revolver; ‘The gun,’ he says, ‘was my idear.’

Continue reading