Birds in Paradise


“With Green Screen I could explore the fifth dimension of what I couldn’t do when I was restrained to the canvas. “ – Jacolby Satterwhite

We are greeted with a message written by Jacolby’s deceased mother, Patricia Satterwhite (who is herself an artist). This neon is a reproduction of her handwriting, the message “when we pass from this clay, we’ll still exist in spirit” glows with tenderness and optimism. Over the course of her life she created thousands of drawings – mostly diagrams of household machines and devices. As his mother’s schizophrenia progressed Jacolby noticed these drawings evolve from functional, realistic structures – to abstract, poetic gestures. This drove him to gather and transform her drawings into energetic worlds and scenes – soundtracked by music that samples her a cappella singing.

Two screens unfold – revealing an explosive world of CGI clubbers in mechanical landscapes. Jacolby approaches creating these worlds through the lens of Afro-Futurism (an effort to create science-fiction that incorporates African-American experiences, so that the black-diaspora might be reconnected with their ancestry). Ambiguity is important – is this heaven or the apocalypse? Within, we see Jacolby’s choreographed dances and performances of bondage-play. Jacolby uses these rituals of movement and sensation to process trauma and purify the body. Some take the form of performance artworks rooted in Nigerian myths of water spirits. Others, take shape in motion-captured voguing. Collectively, these rituals showcase an ongoing exercise in self-destruction, re-invention and rebirth.

To Jacolby, desire is “a rhizome of preceding experiences and information” and unapologetic sexuality is a way to free creativity from shame. Having self-taught music production techniques, Jacolby incorporates both the visual language and the sounds of club culture. In doing so, recreating the space of expressive freedom he found there. By sampling his mother’s music, it’s as if she becomes a collaborator. Even though hours of sitting down and rendering his animations left his spine damaged; this work was urgent and necessary for him. Through his art he found a powerful way to process difficult emotions – a way to relieve himself of grief. This work is a monument to a loved one, his mother living on through art and storytelling.

Jacolby Satterwhite | b. 1986, US
Jacolby Satterwhite’s work has been presented in numerous exhibitions and festivals internationally, including most recently at Haus der Kunst, Munich (2021); Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju (2021); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2021); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2019); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2019); Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2018); New Museum, New York (2017); In 2019, Satterwhite collaborated with Solange Knowles on her visual album, “When I Get Home”.

Jacolby Satterwhite on Instagram