When: 8 June – 10 September 2017
Where: Serpentine Galleries (Sackler Gallery and Pavilion), Kensington Gardens, London W2 3XA Price: Free
On 8th June the Serpentine introduced its audience to a massive body of works: Grayson Perry’s The Most Popular Art Exhibition Ever, one the most astute comments on contemporary society and culture, explores many themes including the link between popularity and art in a contemporary hyper-connected society, masculinity and cultural landscape.
A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions the first UK solo exhibition of Arthur Jafa, US filmmaker and cinematographer. At the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, it is a site-specific installation in which the artist explores identity, invisibility and black bodies while transforming and re-shaping spaces and perceptions with a series of new assemblages that enclose Jafa’s notorious techniques.
Combining film, photography and found footage the artist creates a space of visibility where African-American identities can escape the white gaze that historically cages and shapes narratives around bodies, language and expressions. Jafa is known for cult movies Daughters of the Dust and Crooklyn and more recently Solange Knowles videos Don’t Touch My Hair and Cranes in the Sky.
Jafa’s constant research and experimentation evolve around the ability of visual media to transmit the “power, beauty and alienation of black music” in America, and his exhibition encompasses a deep and thorough approach that re-appropriates and reshapes narratives, symbols and protagonists of more than a century of American history. He speaks of a blackness that is both “relentless and fragile, vulnerable and invincible, coy and expressive”, a complex process of storytelling which embraces complexity and cherishes what Jafa calls “Polyventiality, multiple tones, multiple rhythms, multiple perspectives, multiple meanings, multiplicity”.
The exhibition includes the powerful voices of: the photographer Ming Smith, known for her delicate and empathetic portraits of black cultural figures such as Alvin Alley and Nina Simone and the artist and sociologist Frida Orubapo, also known as @nemiepeba, who constantly challenges and deconstructs the white gaze through her idiosyncratic visual language, and content from the YouTube channel of Missylanyus.
In addition to the exhibition, Jafa has developed a site-specific event as part of the 2017 Park Night Series at the Serpentine Pavilion, this year designed by Diébédo Francis Kèré, the award-winning architect from Gando, Burkina Faso, who explores the links between culture, ecology and nature. Kéré combines his African heritage and his expertise to create open spaces of dialogue where people can gather and belong to a community, and develop a common discourse about society and reality.
Arthur Jafa, Installation view ‘A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions’, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (08 June 2017 – 10 September 2017). Image © Mike Din