Can Blackness Be Loved?  |  Arthur Jafa in Conversation


Saturday, April 2, 2016 from 8:15 9:45pm

In conjunction with the Society for Cinema and Media Studies 2016 Conference Host Committee, liquid blackness is organizing and co-sponsoring the marquee event for this year’s conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The event will include the screening of acclaimed filmmaker Arthur Jafa’s experimental film Dreams are Colder than Death (2014) and a panel discussion including Jafa, film scholar Kara Keeling (University of Southern California) and African American philosopher George Yancy (Emory University) at Atlanta’s recently opened Center for Civil and Human Rights. Jafa’s filmography includes pivotal works of independent African American cinema, which includes working as the cinematographer on Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991) and John Akomfrah’s Seven Songs for Malcolm X (1995). Like his prior films, Dreams are Colder than Death provides an opportunity to reflect on Blackness and (cinematic) form. The film is a somber reflection on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech after half a century. This special event presents an occasion and a space to consider the implications of Jafa’s work. Thus, the event intentionally poses the enduring research question, “can blackness be loved?” in Atlanta’s new monument to racial progress. To answer this provocative question and bridge the gap between Dr. King’s commitment to Civil and Human Rights and the contemporary moment, the film features interviews with the foremost artists and scholars of Blackness including: author/professor Hortense Spillers, poet and philosopher Fred Moten, filmmaker Charles Burnett, professor Saidiya Hartman, ex-Black Panther and professor Kathleen Cleaver, music producer Flying Lotus, musician and producer Melvin Gibbs, contemporary artists Kara Walker and Wangechi Mutu, and visual culture scholar Nicole Fleetwood, among others.

National Center for Civil and Human Rights
100 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd NW,
Atlanta, GA 30313

This event is part of Civil Encounters with Black Media and Black Life, a night on contemporary issues of media and race in the context of Atlanta at the Center for Civil and Human Rights. The first 150 registered conference attendees will be able to freely visit the Center’s Civil Rights and Human Rights Galleries during the evening. Seats are on a first come/first serve basis. Group discount tickets ($10) are also available for purchase at the door.


April 4, 2016 – Kopleff Auditorium, 1-2:30 pm

Facilitated by: Alessandra Raengo, Lauren Cramer, Kristin Juarez

In conjunction with a research project on “black ontology and the love of blackness,” liquid blackness will lead a public conversation with Arthur Jafa, director of the lyrical documentary film Dreams are Colder than Death (2013, 52 min). The film is a meditation on the ontology of blackness and its relationship to life, death, and the concept of the human in the context of the “afterlife of slavery.” It will be screened on April 2 at 8 pm at the Center for Civil and Human Rights, as part of an event titled “Civic Encounters around Black Media and Black Life” for the Annual Conference of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.

“Arthur Jafa in Conversation” will touch on his multidisciplinary work as a cinematographer, director, and installation artist to explore some of the conceptual and practical strategies he has developed to pursue a black aesthetics, while maintaining a practice that moves between the museum and the movie theater.

Arthur Jafa is a crucial voice in a lineage of artists and filmmakers particularly concerned with the creation of a black aesthetics that liquid blackness has been studying since its inception in Fall 2013 when it co-hosted the L.A. Rebellion: Creating a New Black American Cinema film series with Emory’s Department of Film and Media Studies.

Since his groundbreaking work as the acclaimed cinematographer of Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust (1991), a film where he experimented with the possibility of instituting a specifically black aesthetic inspired by the cadence and the form of free jazz and black vocal intonation—what he calls a “black visual intonation”—Jafa has worked on Spike Lee’s Crooklyn  (1994), John Akomfrah’s Seven Songs for Malcolm X (1995), Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999), and Ava DuVernay’s Selma (2014), among many others.

Concurrent with his filmmaking practice, Jafa has also worked as a conceptual artist. Turning more intensely towards installation practice, Jafa has been relentlessly researching the possibility of creating an authentically black visual aesthetics, which he models after the centrality of black music in American culture and life. Jafa is inspired in this quest by the way black musicians focused their collective genius toward operating within very specific constraints. Similarly, a black visual aesthetics for Jafa might become available when every technological, aesthetic, and methodological protocol used by dominant cinema is challenged and adapted to the specific socio-cultural conditions of American black life. Since the late 1990s, his work, research, and writing have focused on this possibility.

Thanks to the support of the Honors College, liquid blackness has invited Jafa to share with GSU students and faculty some of his work as well as his thoughts about artistic experimentation, the pursuit of a black aesthetics, and the way music influences his own understanding of the possibilities of the visual arts. The coordinator of liquid blackness Dr. Alessandra Raengo and members Lauren Cramer and Kristin Juarez will lead the conversation. The event will take place on April 4, 1–2:30 pm at the Kopleff Auditorium on the GSU campus (10 Peachtree Center Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30303).

The event is free and open to the public

Arthur Jafa is an acclaimed filmmaker and artist based in New York. He has been selected for the 2016 Made in L.A. Biennial at the Hammer Museum, and in 2015, he presented APEX redacted, a public video installation for Flux Night in Atlanta. Additionally, his work was included in Kara Walker’s exhibition Ruffneck Constructivists at the ICA Philadelphia, and he has shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2001); Media City, Seoul (2000); Black Box, CCAC Institute, Oakland (2000); and Artists Space, New York (1999). He was part of Okwui Enwezor’s Mirror’s Edge, which opened at the BildMusset, the University of Umeå in Sweden and traveled to the Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada; Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy; and Tramway, Glasgow, Scotland (1999).

Alessandra Raengo, PhD is an Associate Professor of Moving Images Studies at Georgia State University and the author of On the Sleeve of the Visual: Race and Face Value (2013) and Critical Race Theory and Bamboozled (forthcoming Fall 2016).

Lauren Cramer is a PhD candidate in Moving Image Studies at Georgia State University and writing a dissertation on hip-hop and the architecture of blackness.

Kristin Juarez is a PhD student in Moving Image Studies at Georgia State University who focuses on the development of the counter-archive in film and video installation art.