Magazine article Artforum International

Jacolby Satterwhite

Magazine article Artforum International

Jacolby Satterwhite

Article excerpt

RECESS

Many times when we say collaboration, we actually mean task-based audience participation, or even, simply, appropriation. Think, for example, of how "collaborative" processes such as workshopping and inviting audience contributions often result in a single-authored artwork--the artist has annexed others' efforts as his own. Jacolby Satterwhite literally dances amid these semantic distinctions, producing a body of work that mines the slippery word for all it's worth. To create his fantastical videos, the artist makes CGI renderings of speculative consumer products drawn by his mother, and pairs these animated digital graphics with footage of his own performing body. In his current show, he also solicits actions from members of the public that later become part of the works. His practice is rooted in a personal history that, to some, would sound particularly fraught. Previous projects have dealt not only with his experience as an African American growing up gay but also with his childhood battles with cancer (at age seventeen he went into remission after several rounds of chemotherapy), and in this exhibition, his mother's schizophrenia was the organizing theme.

But like the feel-good vibe of rhetorics of collaboration that may ultimately veil asymmetrical power dynamics, Satterwhite's use of his mother's drawings in the current body of work is complicated, and in many ways enriched, by her diagnosed mental illness, symptoms of which involve a compulsion to create diagrams for improbable inventions. The devices are sometimes tweaks of existing products--a "caro-cell," for example, is a rotating complex of reclining lounge-chairs, and a shoe roller-coaster helps organize closets--while some stray into the realm of the bizarre, freighted with sexual connotations. One sketch proposes various flavors of a "lipstick" for "between the legs," while a "whiskey flasher" apparatus with "diamond cocks" can be attached to the tops of liquor bottles. These items are rendered with a feverish pencil latticing that looks remarkably similar to the trusswork of radio towers or the faceted polyhedrons of geodesic domes. Satterwhite inserts digitized versions of the drawn objects into his videos as props for outlandish dances, for which he wears shiny, skintight jumpsuits and preposterous headdresses fitted with glowing screens while voguing on street corners, subway platforms, and other highly trafficked urban areas. …

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