Cantor Arts Center and Stanford University incubating Kahlil Joseph’s BLKNWS

A creative collaboration between the artist and Stanford provides opportunities for reflection and conversation about the representation of race in the media.

The idea of incubating a company or an idea is not uncommon in the Silicon Valley, so applying the same process of gathering information and new ideas to a work of art seemed natural to the California-based artist Kahlil Joseph.

Visitors at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center absorb the video images from Kahlil Joseph’s BLKNWS, 2018.

Visitors at Stanford’s Cantor Arts Center absorb the video images from Kahlil Joseph’s BLKNWS, 2018. (Image credit: L.A. Cicero)

Joseph, a visiting artist in the Stanford Presidential Residencies on the Future of the Arts program, is turning to this method for his installation of BLKNWS, a genre-defying work that is on display at the Cantor Arts Center and at two other locations on the Stanford campus.  In addition to observing the reactions of viewers, Joseph also is engaging in roundtable discussions with experts in a variety of fields as he continues to refine the work before taking it to the Venice Biennale, one of the preeminent showcases for new contemporary art in the world.

Joseph’s project is a two-channel video broadcast displayed on two side-by-side monitors. Juxtaposed on each screen are media clips of black American experiences from both popular culture and archival materials that are paired alongside filmed news desk segments, where actors portray news anchors. Joseph is interested in expanding traditional print and televised news formats to be more broadly representative.

“We are thrilled to have Kahlil Joseph here at Stanford working with us on this important project before taking it to the Venice Biennale,” said Harry Elam Jr., vice president for the arts and the Freeman-Thornton Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education. “With its unique format and alluring visual palette, BLKNWS offers a provocative and engaging view into black culture. Blurring the lines between past and present, news and entertainment, artwork and network news, this video piece grabs the viewer’s attention. The development of BLKNWS at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford has proven a most exciting experiment in and model for collaboration between an artist and a university arts institution.”

Artist Kahlil Joseph pauses in front of a BLKNWS poster in the Cantor Café.

Artist Kahlil Joseph pauses in front of a BLKNWS poster in the Cantor Café. (Image credit: Sandra Feder)

As part of the incubation process, Joseph is participating in roundtable discussions that bring together representatives from the campus community and the Bay Area, who have been invited to offer their perspectives in an intimate conversation. These include faculty, students, staff and non-academic professionals from a wide range of fields, such as art history, technology, law, business, music, ecology and critical race and ethnic studies.

“Presenting BLKNWS at the Cantor and Stanford during its development for the Venice Biennale has provided the chance to show it to different audiences and gather feedback, including from the faculty and other experts on campus,” Joseph said.

The work is currently on display in three distinct venues on the Stanford campus: the Cantor; Harmony House, which is the home of the Institute for Diversity in the Arts (IDA); and the Lagunita dining hall.

“One of the things Stanford is known for is reinventing delivery systems. Why not think about how museums, which are 19th-century institutions, can ‘deliver’ art in the 21st century?” asked Susan Dackerman, the John and Jill Freidenrich Director at the Cantor. “Having an artist incubate a work here seems like a perfect opportunity to talk about what 21st-century art is, how it is made, and how it can be presented in the museum and beyond its walls to the most heterogenous audience.”

Joseph’s yearlong residency on campus is hosted by the Office of the Vice President for the Arts. His presence on campus provides an opportunity for the Stanford community, and particularly the Cantor community, “to contribute to a new understanding of what’s made possible by incorporating artists and cutting-edge artwork into the daily life of the museum and university,” Dackerman said.

Joseph is creating a new edition of BLKNWS for the Biennale in May of this year. The BLKNWS broadcast at Stanford will continue to be shown through Nov. 25, 2019. On Friday, April 26, from 7­–9 p.m., in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President for the Arts, IDA will host a public screening of several of Joseph’s works and a conversation with him at Oshman Hall in the McMurtry Art Building on campus.

Joseph is an acclaimed artist and filmmaker who lives and works in Los Angeles. He is known for his large-scale video installations that explore film as a powerful collective experience. Currently, Joseph serves as the artistic director of The Underground Museum, a pioneering independent art museum, exhibition space and community hub in Los Angeles that he cofounded with his late brother, artist and curator Noah Davis.

This exhibition is organized by the Cantor Arts Center. The residency is hosted in collaboration with the Institute for Diversity in the Arts. The Cantor gratefully acknowledges support from the Office of the President, Stanford University.