Kanye West barely had a moment to breathe between announcing his supposed candidacy (for the presidency) and his first campaign-ending financial scandal (for his super flush record label taking government bail-out loans). But before all that — way back in late last week — Kanye released what in retrospect could be argued as his first campaign ad. It’s directed by the luminary artist Arthur Jafa, and it’s the best part of the #2020Vision story so far. (One theory is that’s the name of the forthcoming album that this performance art is pre-marketing.)
Arthur Jafa had used Kanye’s gospel-inflected track “Ultralight Beam” in his seminal 2016 video work, Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death, in which his juxtapositional editing style and elegant inducement of emotional whiplash is in full force. That video has recently been re-upped on museum and social media channels, notable for both its unflinching gaze on trauma and its fierce embrace of joyfulness within the spectrum of the Black experience in America.
Jafa’s video for Kanye’s new song “Wash Us in the Blood” reprises this hard-edit collage style, accompanying the moody, percussive, momentum-gathering track with footage of Ahmaud Arbery just prior to his murder, home video of a cheerful, dancing Breonna Taylor, concert footage of Kanye and several others, video game segments, police and other hostile confrontations, more dancing, and some truly gorgeous photography and animated sequences. If we are indeed in for a durational performative campaign, at least let’s hope Yeezy hires Jafa for the rest of the ads.