“What would America be like if we loved Black people as much as we love Black culture?” This question is asked in the middle of Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death, a 2016 supercut of 150 clips by the American artist and filmmaker Arthur Jafa, and it strikes to the heart of the piece. Set to Kanye West’s rapturous “Ultralight Beam,” the seven-minute video shows Barack Obama singing “Amazing Grace,” a police officer throwing a young Black woman to the ground, and Michael Jackson dancing by himself in the backseat of a car. It is the “entanglement of absolute joy and absolute pain,” the poet Fred Moten told The New Yorker last year. “This is why it’s good that it lasts only seven minutes, because that’s as much as anyone can take.” The work became a viral and artistic sensation, making Jafa’s name, and is now on view at the Louisiana Art Museum along with several newer works. —C.J.F.
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