ok so i knew i would die when i'd see ES but boy DID I GO TO ART HEAVEN TOO. a superfan of Jacolby Satterwhite, i need to discuss En Plein Air: Music of Objective Romance, which i thought was the stand out piece of the whole show.
Although he specifically cites his recent work The Matriarch's Rhapsody as:
"[His] body and art facility, as an extension/interpretation of [his] mother’s voice and drawings, is an attempt to examine memory, insider/ outsider art practices, contemporary surrealist practices, queer phenomenology and push the tensions created during translation and inheritance of studio practice."
I think all of his work results in inevitable tension-pushing - but it's entirely seductive. The more i feel i should look away, the more i can't. And this is probably only because i feel like i'm imposing on ethnic secrets.
Now I want to begin with how I felt when I first entered the space. I was greeted by this:
Olaf Breuning, Text Butt (2015)
AHHHHH SOMEONE SAVE ME I'M BEING ATTACKED BY A FLAT WHITE BUTT. Only joking. This bored me, and it's not because it's text on an ass but(t) because it's text on a white ass. Can you imagine if this was an ethinc ass? Smacking you right in the face as you first walk in? I feel like this was curated with the intention of violating the visitor from the very beginning, when all i think it really does is force us to violate the butt - with little excitement might i add. Now if the butt was a little less pink i would have stopped for a while longer to study it, to think about it's provocation, to wonder whether the person's whose ass it is lived to tell the tale or face deadly reprecussions (brown gals i'm lookin at ya). It's quite fun, how the conversation is aligned with the butt crack, i suppose, but ultimately it just suggests to me what i already know - that digital media has become so prevalent in every day life that it now violates the human shell. OR perhaps it's just a piece about the realm of digital social networking being literal bullshit, haha. I could be completely wrong, but the problem is that i don't care to find out either. As i remember it, i just smiled and walked off to find something more exciting because i hoped it would set the precedent for more controversial, pressing matters.
OK let's move on to GAY BOMBS.
Just brief, but i thought it was cool.
Zach Blas, Queer Technologies (2007-10)
This felt super corporate - as if i was seeing for the first time the launch of the latest military technology out there. And it was this feeling that made it work for me - because once you really get up close the gayness oozes out. The pink-coloured bombs remind me of my pink samosas, and tries to make the same sort of comment:
Extract from interview with Zach Blas
(click on the pic for the link to the full interview)
In the same way Blas re-appropriates the US Air Force's military "gay bombs", my pink samosas are a re-appropriation of the Pink Triangle, which were Naxi concentration camp badges used to ostracise and segregate gay male prisoners. Since, the pink triangle has become a symbol of reclaimation for gay rights. I believe that the pink triangle may have been used to label gay men specifically, but the samosa goes beyond this. This samosa is not only a reference to this symbol of gay pride - but also of the restriction of it, where the pink triangle becomes reclaimed but also highlights the fact that this still isn't enough. For me, the samosa is for those of colour - those who may support and/or exercise lgbt rights or minority rights in general, but are still constrained by their own ethinicity and culture. Let's not forget that the origins of the pink triangle only really address gay men - but the pink samosa is for all.
NOW ONTO SATTERWHITE.
Everytime i tried to walk away from the work, i simply could not. IT WAS SO GOOD. God i wish i caught the part of the piece which showed him at an underground station in the most eccentric, flamboyant outfit which gave the woman next to him such a reaction it could have been just as effective to have her expression on a loop as the entirety of the piece. (and him dancing on top of it)
(This isn't specifically from ES but an idea of Satterwhite's work in general)
There was also a part in it when Satterwhite, in the same ru-pauls-drag-race-esq outfit shows interest in a product at a South East Asian store and gets turned away. Now this part more than others in the video definitely seemed like it was an experience that he wanted to prove happens - but it was something that rings all too true to me. Solidarity is a term that is used way too lightly and without any care to what it actually suggests. To me, it suggests that in terms of colour, all minorities are one, and this collective group of suppressed communities can easily come together to confront white people. This is wrong. As someone who lives every day being suppressed in one way (e.g. caste) if not another (e.g. race), Satterwhite really successully portrayed a more realisitic societal experience - where convention overrides solidarity. When the South East Asian man turned him away, he gave zero shits about Satterwhite's blackness - he saw what he believed wasn't normal and rejected it immediately. That is universal. Before we claim solidarity we must address hierarchy with the minority itself. Once more of an understanding, a compromise is conveyed, only then can we challenge the straight white man.
The structure or composition of the work in itself is ground-breaking. Satterwhite recreates a world, a big fat gay world that isn't necessarily gay at all. It's only the inclusion of green-screened sex acts with other men that make it fruity, but when you really look closely this could essentially all be overlooked by the fact that it's super digital. I'm not saying that the gayness in it isn't important or ought to be dismissed, just that Satterwhite creates his own digital platform within a pre-exisiting digital platform. Now the one that exists is that which feeds us all - whether we're just emailing a hoe or posting a selfie it's like a collective digital platform we all perform on. Satterwhite, however, uses aspects of his personal life and filters it through digital media that positions him in an realm that becomes impenetrable. He blatantly codes his personal life - and this is something i am beginning to develop in my own work as well.
It's so layered that the work becomes literally foreign. It feels like you're on holiday actually - you don't have any understanding of the culture or the people or the every-day regime there, perhaps you can connect with some things on quite a generic level but not quite. Even though he's an LGBT artist of colour, there's still something about the work that's unreachable. And that's what makes me stay. I spoke earlier about imposing on ethnic secrets and i'd like to add to that now:
Satterwhite describes his work as "unlimited sci-fi surrealist paradise", and while it most certainly is, another aspect of it that really interests me is the work existing as both a product of and alongside colour.
WATCH THIS FUN VID OF SATTZ & JAY-Z:
IS THIS NOT THE MOST BIZARRE BLOODY THING YOU'VE EVER SEEN ?!
Note Satterwhite's behaviour as he performs on the white platform given. The surface is indicative of the conventional white walls of a gallery space and so Satterwhite exudes the very same person that is performed in his artworks. He seems to feel safe there, in the confines of this perceived art platform and perfects his dance moves until Jay Z's own Picasso Baby booms. Now this song needs a whole essay of it's own to be discussed in great length but it's so extremely interesting how everything changes when it comes on. Satterwhite leaves the white platform and jumps straight into rap mode. I felt as though he felt like he had to suddenly alter his persona to cater to the audience, to compete with Jay-Z. However, there is also a perceived nervousness and/or fear in Jay-Z's demeanour throughout the video: Suddenly he rises from the bench on which he is sitting (with a random old white man ???) and begins to perform Picasso Baby as if to say this is how it's done. Watching it is extremely unsettling for me, because it doesn't feel like fun - it feels like two people of colour trying to outdo one another for the attention of white people. It's so sad. Jay-Z seems to remain hypervigilant throughout, and it reminds me of the same interaction with the South East Asian shop owner - where unconventional is seen as fearful or repulsive. It's like the way white people look at you when they're in awe of you as a different kind of species, an alien, but don't envy you either because they know they're seen as better than you.
Ultimately, it came across as two black men fighting for the attention of a white audience looking for some entertainment - and this is good for no one. It became a weird competition of masculinity, art/rap and gay/straight, when it could have been a glorious uplifting collaboration between two unlikely figures who together could change perceptions of/for minorities.
Lastly, note the mainly white audience who have no idea what's going on and don't care either LMAO
Jacolby Satterwhite, En Plein Air: Music of Objective Romance (2015)
sidenote: i don't understand why if Amalia Ulman's instagram performance is so majestic as being a performance on actual instagram, what is with the gross-quality-printed-onto-canvas-or-something displays in both Whitechapel & Tate Modern. In Tate Modern especially, the printed versions are guarded by three ipads of Ulman's insta which the visitor is able to stalk freely, why couldn't that be the work itself?
makes no sense to me ???