On April 30th, The Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) debuted a video installation by artist Jacolby Satterwhite which featured Miami bred rapper Trina. The film was followed with a short performance by the Diamond Princess herself who performed hits like “The Baddest Bitch,” “Pull Over,” and “Look Back at It.” The collaborative performance is a part of the PAMM’s WAVES initiative, a series of commissioned collaborative performances among a range of interdisciplinary artists. The performance, entitled “En Plein Air.” took place in PAMM Beach, situated in the museum’s outdoor space along Biscayne Bay.
“..WATCH ME BUILD A TREE HOUSE..” a lyric rapped by Trina in her 2013 collaboration with Lil Wayne entitled Wowzers, echoed through the speakers. Trina’s lyrics continued: “DICK LIKE A TREE,” playing simultaneously along with the video. The sounds provided by DJ Total Freedom included some of Trina’s most provocative euphemisms chopped and slightly screwed melodically over gigantic bass bound instrumentals.Trina’s voice was then matched with a visual avatar of the Miami based rapper created by Satterwhite.
The video was reminiscent of my adolescent days when I played Tomb Raider and Spyro on SONY PlayStation in the early 2000’s (around the same time Trina emerged on the rap scene with ‘The Baddest Bitch’). However, in this ‘video game’ the main character was the Diamond Princess, who sensually rocked back and forth to the beat. In the video, the Trina avatar was situated in close proximity to a mobile spacecraft like device, shaped like a woman’s uterus spouting out embryos ‘en plein air.’ The scene is a utopian masterpiece, bridging the familiar melodies of Trina’s raw rap flow with a 3-dimensional dreamland of intergalactic fem-hop. A smaller avatar of Satterwhite vogued – a contemporary dance style that is present in many of his works – along-side the Diamond Princess.
Satterwhite is known for conducting memory and personal history explorations through 3-D animation. His public homage to Trina through “En Plein Air” is not his first time paying homage to an influential female figure in his life. His mother, a former artist, is frequently featured in his work. In “Matriarch’s Rhapsody” (2012), Satterwhite traced a series of archived images of “hybrid objects,” created by his mother, rooted in her desire to be a part of consumer culture. Satterwhite has also featured voice recordings by his mother in his animations while also acting as an agent over his sexual identity in his works. In his 2009 work “Adam for Adam,” Satterwhite addresses the pains and pleasures of homosexuality through a series of experiences including a baptism, affection, violence and dance coupled with a musical ode to love recorded by his mother. In most instances, he uses his own body to conduct such investigations through movement, pleasurable or not.
Like Trina, Jacolby has mastered a certain sexual agency over his own body and avatar, carefully assembling graceful elements of body movement that become reminiscent of 90’s video game super-heroes. Whether it be constructing animated sexual machines squirting out sperm, or using his own physical body to engage the public by voguing on the streets of New York, his body, digital and physical, is his the best medium. He continuously couples lude transgressions with acknowledgments and praise of he and his mother’s personal history. This time, Jacolby taps the likes of the Baddest Bitch, including her bombshell figure and sexually empowering lyrics to acknowledge and praise the use of body as a vessel of liberation and self governance.
The coupling of Trina’s perversely raw lyrics rooted in sexual dominance and lude body movements thoughtfully executed by Jacolby pays homage to the tantalizing rapper and her unequivocal consistency to remain in charge of her sexuality and her body. Trina has always remained the agent of her sexual advances. Her lyrics bluntly reflect a powerhouse of two dichotomies: Feminism and Capitalism. “Ain’t no way that you gon get up in this for free…” Trina has actively coupled her own desire for sensual pleasure with the aspiration to become financially successful, unfailingly adding monetary value to her sexual prowess. The two on screen together represented an incomparable kindredship of empowerment through sexual awareness and ownership.
While Jacolby was present in the virtual form of the performance, he was not in attendance physically. His absence was deeply felt. I imagined that we would have the opportunity to experience the live analog chemistry between the enigmatic rapper and the dynamic video installation artist. The transition from multi stimulant video installation alliance between Trina and Jacolby followed by a rap performance which failed to reflect the vibrant video installation that preceded it was somewhat anticlimactic. While I was beyond ecstatic to experience a Trina performance in a museum space, the mission of WAVES collaborational programming fell short in that regard.
Nevertheless, what was most fascinating about the collaboration is the fact that the rare rap performance transpired in a traditional museum institution – a space synonymous with silenced policed atmospheres, rather than lively hip hop acts. The event at PAMM reflects a new era in defining what American art museums are, what they do, and who they serve. My En Plein Air experience was reminiscent of some nights, years ago in local miami strip clubs post 3 a.m. En Plein Air at PAMM, like your average Miami hip hop based exotic dance club, requires you to confront sexual agency, specifically as it relates to not only visual politics, but capitalism as well: Who is in control? The performer? The person with the cash? Or the institution perpetuating it all? Blurring lines in a traditional cultural institution through nuanced unconventional offerings may be a new form of sustainability for contemporary art museums.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Taylor Renee is co-editor of ARTS.BLACK