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Arthur Jafa Monster, 1988/2019


Artwork Factory


Arthur Jafa points the camera directly at his mirror image. He stares at us with his penetrating gaze. The artist developed the photo at human scale, thus confronting the self-portrait even more directly with the person viewing it. What is notable for his photography is his work on developing sensitive techniques for representing black and dark tones on film. Throughout the image, black and white flow into one another.

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Arthur Jafa is an internationally successful artist, filmmaker, cameraman and music video director. With his works he criticizes racism and addresses Blackness, i.e. the experience of being Black. The artist’s issue is that people of all skin colors have the same rights. Yet People of Color are discriminated against not only in the USA, but all over the world—also in Germany.

Talk about it

Which thoughts fill the emptiness of the upper half of the picture?

"It’s a muscle that everybody needs to develop: the ability to see themselves in someone else’s circumstances without having to paint that person white, make that person straight, or a man. How can you see yourself in the other? That’s what it really comes down to—empathy. I’m trying to make my shit as black as possible and still have you deal with my humanity."

Arthur Jafa


Look closely

Who is being photographed here?

Talk about it

What becomes of an insult when you label yourself with it?

Arthur takes action, forestalls racist insults and declares himself a monster with the title of his photograph.


At the 2019 Venice Biennale, Arthur was awarded the Golden Lion, the highest distinction. However, statistics show that most of the works in museums and exhibitions are still by white, male artists. Why do you think that is?


How does powerlessness become power, how do experiences with racism become disarming self-confidence?


Artist Factory

Artist Arthur Jafa

was born in Tupelo, Mississippi, USA, in 1960.