Mar 19, 2014, 7PM

Arthur Jafa Screening in conjunction with BlackStar Film Festival


This electrifying screening and talk by director and cinematographer Arthur Jafa featured a discussion of some of the ideas that helped shape the ICA’s exhibition Ruffneck Contructivists, guest-curated by artist Kara Walker (February 12-August 17,2014). As she developed the show, Walker was in ongoing conversation with Jafa about such topics as the viability of black aesthetics; the complexities and innovations of black cinema and other black art forms; and what we see when we look at culture through the lens of art and film today. Jafa set the tone for the evening, which was hosted by International House, by projecting clips from a Marvin Gaye documentary and footage of a gospel choir performing. He then grounded the conversation in his own biography, growing up between two Mississippi towns, one racially segregated and the other integrated. Originally interested in architecture, Jafa’s imaginings of how the experience of listening to James Brown might be translated into a building eventually morphed into a career in filmmaking and criticism. Amid lots of individual back and forth with a deeply engaged audience, Jafa discussed the influence of the white gaze in Hollywood; the structural impediments for black filmmakers, performers,and stories in the film industry; and the “glamoring” blacks do to survive—and thrive—in American culture. He showed a section of Dreams Are Colder Than Death, a documentary he made for German TV on the anniversary of the March on Washington; YouTube videos of the extraordinary dancing of Storyboard P; and a powerful slideshow, animated by music, of images related to a high budget science fiction film he’d like to make some day. Jafa also talked about “abnormativity,” a word he coined, which Walker also uses, meaning something that’s bad—so very bad—that it becomes, in its own way, good.
Ruffneck Constructivists