The MCA is Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and can be found in the centre of the City on East Chicago Avenue.
The Museum has a great collection including Koons, Kalder and local Chicago artists etc but an unexpected exhibit made an emotional impact on me during this particular visit. Having visited the city and this museum before I thought I knew what to expect but I was blown away by Prisoner of Love on the ground floor.
Centred around Arthur Jafa’s 7 minute montage film Love is the Message The Message is Death, the exhibition features a rotating body of work from the MCA's collection inspired by the titular themes in Bruce Nauman’s iconic neon Life, Death, Love, Hate, Pleasure, Pain, on display as you enter the exhibit.
Normally I have a dislike for video art in exhibitions. Previous to this show I had not seen a piece I enjoyed or really understood. They had all seemed either very self indulgent or shock value with no real purpose, mostly I would avoid that dark door way at an exhibition at all costs. But Jafa has changed that for me.
It was the sound of Kanye West’s ‘Ultralight Beam’ and my love of hiphop that drew me inside that room and I stayed…. for the whole 7 minutes.
Love is the Message…. is a multi layered montage of the experience of blackness in the United States today. The video tells a story of trauma and transcendence in a flurry of footage including a celebration of Black Icons such as Serena Williams, Beyonce, James Brown and Notorious B.I.G, mixed with historic speeches from Martin Luther King and Barack Obama, cut together with footage of the dark reality of police brutality in America today.
I was moved to tears for almost the entirety of this film. The power of black culture is incredible. I have always prided myself on being liberal and against any kind of discrimination but after watching Love is the Message I have realised that it’s not enough just to say it. We need to speak out against injustice. We need to listen more to people of all cultures and faiths when they are saying they are being discriminated against. We need to educate ourselves in the history of others. The systems that are in charge benefit more from keeping us apart and afraid of each other.
The system we have IS NOT A FAIR SYSTEM for all but LOVE IS THE MESSAGE.
After the film had finished you could leave a comment to how the exhibit had made you feel. I can honestly say I was speechless and I just could not find the words (which is unusual) but this anonymous comment below captured my feelings perfectly.
There are other great, powerful and moving works by artists such as Deana Lawson, Melvin Edwards and Robert Mapplethorpe and if you can get to Chicago I highly recommend it.
‘Love is the Message The Message is Death’ will be on show from March 28th at the Tate Liverpool.
More information can be found here as well as a short clip of the film.