BLKNWS Redux

Snippet from Kahlil Joseph’s BLKNWS, 2021

I’ve been chasing Kahlil Joseph’s monumental video piece around the world. It’s been a slow global courtship that began in Venice in October 2019, continued in New York in February 2020 and now persists in LA in July 2021. When I first found the piece, it was probably because I heard Moodymann in the distance. And I thought – how is someone playing Moodymann in Venice? And I was drawn transfixed into the piece. Standing in a room of mostly white foreigners, I found myself the first one who laughed aloud at its edgy jokes, familiar to a white woman who has grown up immersed in black American culture. Once I started to react, others did too and like the Djs I admired, I enjoyed warming the room.

I might argue that BLKNWS requires many viewings in many different locations to fully grasp its depth and character, an exquisitely edited and sometimes harsh commentary on modern black American culture that was crafted long before the events of the last 17 months, but seems even more prescient daily.

It will make you laugh and cry, but most importantly it will make you think as you sift through the labyrinth of stills and clips and moments of contemporary media. Like Marclay’s “The Clock,” it’s an emporium of culture and as the world has changed since the first time I stumbled upon it and sat transfixed on the ground as the room filled and emptied, so has my desire to view more and more of it. I never intended to write about it so I’ve watched it without taking notes, and have just enjoyed the pleasure of watching its biting cuts and juxtapositions and rhythm of its ideas. In an era when everything is edited too fast, Joseph has slowed down the tempo and has crafted a non linear narrative that is snackably addictive and deeply satisfying. I just want to sit and watch and absorb it all and then start becoming an activist to protest and make change.

When I found it again today, I heard On Kawara in my head stating, “I am still alive,” and I saw the clip of Whitney and began to weep at all our loss and also vibrate at our strength and resilience as we rise beyond this moment in history.

There’s still so much more to watch of this masterful work – and I encourage you to do so. On around LA via @nomadicdivision #kahliljoseph

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