Jacolby Satterwhite at PAMM: The Past as Virtual Reality

A still from Jacolby Statterwhite's En Plein Air: Diamond Princess
A still from Jacolby Statterwhite's En Plein Air: Diamond Princess
Photo by George Martinez

Jacolby Satterwhite's En Plein Air: Diamond Princess, a film commissioned by Miami's Borscht Corporation and Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), is in many ways an homage to our generation: It's mesmerizing in a way that makes you feel like either you're on drugs or staring at your iPhone, two very different effects that here feel interchangeable. But its also a powerful message about the role of a strong black woman in today's media, one that is both personal to the artist and familiar to the audience.

Satterwhite's, a New York-based artist, cullsimages from his South Carolina childhood – he looks to his mother's drawings for inspiration, which she drew during schizophrenic episodes in Satterwhite's early childhood. Fascinated by infomercials, Satterwhite's mother thought her ticket to money and stardom was inventing something that could be sold on the Home Shopping Network. Her drawings, rudimentary renderings of blankets, utensils, pots, and pans, were the catalyst for Satterwhite's experimentation with familial objects as performance art.

Growing up playing video games, Satterwhite has claimed he was raised by "pop culture" and his works symbolize Satterwhite's view from behind the console. He finds inspiration in his mother's drawings, his queer identity and the fictitious, futuristic world in which he grew up to create films that are surrealist and stupefying.

Trina performing at PAMM
Trina performing at PAMM
Photo by George Martinez

The collaboration with Trina came about during Satterwhite's residency at Miami's Fountainhead, when PAMM approached the artist for its WAVES series, a group of specially commissioned, collaborative performances by musicians, visual artists, and multimedia filmmakers focused on creating an immersive, 3-D experience. The museum teamed up with Borscht Corporation to produce the video, which would star local hip-hop star and "Miami's baddest bitch," Trina.

En Plein Air: Diamond Princess features our heroine as an army of one, in which she's spinning on a galactic axis and warding off flying objects, while dancing Satterwhites vogue through space. The sound for the film was re-mixed by Los Angeles artist and DJ Total Freedom, who united contrasting music and obscure alien soundbites that draws you in with its repetitiveness and puts a keen focus on the scene at hand. The film captivates your unconscious and speaks to our generation's need to be constantly stimulated.

A still from Satterwhite's film
A still from Satterwhite's film
Courtesy of PAMM

Satterwhite told Guernica that his mother is a consistent platform from which he begins many of his projects, and that he puts her on an extremely high pedestal. In that realm, Trina as the cosmic protagonist was particularly interesting, especially considering that Trina's rise to stardom occurred during an age in which technology and social media hadn't yet become an essential component of fame. In another sense, Trina is an avatar for the role of Satterwhite's perception of his mother, as a strong black woman from which his reality is centered.

By injecting himself as a floating object in a virtual space, Satterwhite removes the control he had behind the console and allows his reality to be controlled by an abstract woman, giving the audience a glimpse of both his childhood and his cyberworld.

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