Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death

Arthur Jafa Video on

On Friday, June 26 at 11 a.m. EDT, several United States museums, led by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, will join international museums that own an edition of Arthur Jafa’s artwork Love Is the Message, The Message Is Death in a forty-eight-hour live stream of the seven-and-a-half-minute video. The High will stream the video artwork live on through Sunday, June 28 at 11 a.m. EDT.  

In Arthur Jafa’s powerful work of art produced in 2016, Love Is The Message, The Message Is Death, the artist combines original footage with clips from documentary film, news media, social media, and Hollywood to illustrate a century of tumultuous Black experience in the United States, from Jim Crow to Ferguson.

This montage alternates between scenes of triumph and jubilation and those of conflict, violence, and upheaval. The music is Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam,” sung by Chicago-born artist Chance the Rapper, and serves as both a lament and a meditation on spiritual and social awakening. Jafa immerses the audience in the sorrows, joys, injustices, and triumphs of Black America.


The global consortium of participating museums includes the Dallas Museum of Art; Glenstone Museum; High Museum of Art in Atlanta; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Studio Museum in Harlem; Julia Stoschek Collection Berlin; Luma Arles and Luma Westbau; Pinault Collection in Paris and Palazzo Grassi in Venice; Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC; Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam; and the Tate in London.


Arthur Jafa leans against a wood paneled wall in a long hallway.

Photo Credit: Robert Hamacher
Courtesy the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York/Rome

Arthur Jafa (born 1960, Tupelo, Mississippi) is an artist, filmmaker, and cinematographer. Across three decades, Jafa has developed a dynamic practice comprising films, artifacts, and happenings that reference and question the universal and specific articulations of Black being. Underscoring the many facets of Jafa’s practice is a recurring question: how can visual media, such as objects and static and moving images, transmit the equivalent “power, beauty, and alienation” embedded within forms of Black music in US culture?

Jafa’s films have garnered acclaim at the Los Angeles, New York, and Black Star Film Festivals, and his artwork is represented in celebrated collections worldwide including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Tate, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Studio Museum in Harlem, High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, LUMA Foundation, Perez Art Museum Miami, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and Smithsonian American Art Museum, among many others.

Jafa has recent and forthcoming exhibitions of his work at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archives; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Fundação de Serralves, Porto; the 22nd Biennale of Sydney; and the Louisiana Museum of Art, Denmark. In 2019, he received the Golden Lion for the Best Participant of the 58th Venice Biennale “May You Live in Interesting Times.”


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