Joseph originally conceived of as a pitch reel for an actual news program that he presented to major news networks. They all passed. Instead, the project was incubated at the Cantor Arts Center at California’s Stanford University before appearing in what is arguably the world’s most prestigious exhibition for contemporary art.
Since then, has appeared at David Zwirner in New York, as part of an exhibition of Joseph’s late brother, painter, curator, and Underground Museum founder Noah Davis. It was screened at Utah’s Sundance Film Festival in January before a limited release at independent cinemas across the country. The piece was also scheduled to be on view at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Brooklyn’s Weeksville Heritage Center, an event that was cancelled due to the global health crisis.
Asked about the controversy, curator Helen Molesworth, who appeared on a mock news segment in , told Artnet News: “Unfortunately, I do think that this is an example of plagiarism. Joseph’s has had wide and heterogenous exposure, from screenings at the Underground Museum to the Venice Biennale, from being workshopped at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford to its existence in the lobby of the Eaton Hotel in Washington, DC. It’s been circulated widely among Hollywood folks and many music industry people own copies of it. So I find it hard to believe, to Barry Jenkins’s point, that anyone, by which I mean Diddy, who owns a Kerry James Marshall and professes to be all about the culture, isn’t aware of what the director of is up to. But the real question for me is why did he continue with it even after he was explicitly informed? What version of the culture is that?”
Joseph’s project is due to get another showing at the now-postponed “Made in LA 2020: a version” biennial, with the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles partnering with the Los Angeles Nomadic Division to present the artwork at black-owned businesses and other sites across the city. LAND and the Hammer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Combs is launching his version of “Black News” on REVOLT TV, the music cable network he started in 2003. The first episode, featuring special guests Nick Cannon, Jhene Aiko, Styles P, Angela Yee, and Deepak Chopra, debuted Sunday night on REVOLT TV’s YouTube channel and offers tips on how to use food and herbs to boost immunity and enhance wellness. According to REVOLT, the concept was inspired by a town hall held on REVOLT about the impact of coronavirus on Black America. (Separately, Black News Channel, a broadcast television news channel headquartered in Tallahassee, debuted on February 10 during Black History Month.)
Diddy could not be reached, and REVOLT TV did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The feedback to Diddy’s project has been mixed, to say the least. “It’s a tender time and while I appreciate @Diddy launching a news beat directed towards black issues, there is already a project title[d] and it’s authored by a black artist. Disappointed in his team for this oversight,” said independent curator Kimberley Drew on Twitter. “We need a voice right now, but we cannot overwrite the work of our peers.”
“It’s blatant plagiarism,” added Tunisian writer and curator Myriam Ben Salah on Twitter. “This is a rip-off of Kahlil Joseph’s #BLKNWS.”