As a filmmaker and cinematographer, Arthur Jafa articulates his thoughts through images. From 1990 to 2007 he clipped images from all manner of publications, studiously combining them in plastic sleeves set in three-ring binders. Jafa took up this activity while working as the director of photography for Julie Dash’s film Daughters of the Dust (1991). His research into black culture later took on a life of its own, leading him to produce more than two hundred notebooks that sought to make the subtle movements of the world more visible. Each two-page spread is a crystalline example of montage as defined by film theorists like Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov. Each pairing of images forms a visual hypothesis on the construction of subjectivity and what Jafa has theorized elsewhere as a decidedly black aesthetic. The images, thoughtfully paired and repeated throughout individual notebooks, produce a lyrical train of thought and an iconographic road map that surveys objects, people, moments, and events that speak to both being and becoming in the decades that shaped the notebooks’ existence.
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