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Jacolby Satterwhite Dances with His Self

August 16, 2013

How does an artist use digital technology to perform new identities? In this film, artist Jacolby Satterwhite crafts surreal 3D animated videos while transporting characters from his virtual worlds into the streets of New York City. “We’re in the age of the remix,” says the artist, who observes that “now it’s about how you use the information around you to generate your individuality.”

At a modest computer setup in his Chinatown studio, Satterwhite digitally traces by hand his mother’s schematic drawings of inventions, reimagining them into baroque, neon-colored landscapes in a constant state of flux. Adapting additional visual references—home movies, family photos, documentary footage, and images throughout art history—Satterwhite “queers” the purpose and meaning of his source material, creating a unique personal mythology through stream of consciousness storytelling techniques. Recording himself in front of a green screen, the artist populates his videos with multiple avatars of himself who, in movements reminiscent of voguing in the ball scene, activate objects into wordless scenes of transformation and desire.

In spaces throughout the city—the Brooklyn Bridge, Chinatown, Little Italy, Union Square subway station, and a Recess event at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village—Satterwhite also engages the public in the persona of his freewheeling avatar, wearing a custom-made costume outfitted with iPads and iPhones that loop the artist’s videos. Simultaneously flamboyant provocations and a natural extension of his process, Satterwhite treats these spontaneous encounters in the city as a sketchbook that will inform future animations.

Featuring scenes from the works Country Ball (1989–2012), The Matriarch’s Rhapsody (2012), Reifying Desire 3 (2012), Reifying Desire 4 (2012), Reifying Desire 5 (2013), and Reifying Desire 6 (2013).

More information and credits


Art21 New York Close Up Created & Produced by: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Producer & Editor: Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Cinematography: Rafael Salazar & Ava Wiland. Sound: Ava Wiland. Associate Producer: Ian Forster. Design & Graphics: Open. Artwork: Jacolby Satterwhite. Additional Photography: Jacolby Satterwhite. Thanks: Alejandro Guzmán, Recess, Monya Rowe Gallery & Patricia Satterwhite. An Art21 Workshop Production. © Art21, Inc. 2013. All rights reserved.

Closed captionsAvailable in English, German, Romanian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Italian

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Jacolby Satterwhite

Jacolby Satterwhite was born in 1986 in Columbia, South Carolina; he lives and works in New York. Bringing together such practices as vogueing, 3D animation, and drawing, Satterwhite’s dreamlike videos explore his own body and queerness while also incorporating his mother’s identity, her schizophrenia, and the thousands of illustrations she made throughout his childhood. Satterwhite started out as a painter but shifted his practice when he discovered new media. He often works in front of a green screen and is drawn to the virtual space because of its potential as a queer arena, but his performances also take place in public outdoor spaces.

“We’re in the age of the remix…now it’s about how you use the information around you to generate your individuality.”

Jacolby Satterwhite

Technology & Experimentation

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