Berlin- and London-based artist and video game developer Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley creates moving-image works that enact, center, and archive the spectrum of Black trans experiences. Made using obsolete modeling and rendering techniques, Brathwaite-Shirley’s interactive animations manifest the spirits of Black transness to archive those who might otherwise be erased and forgotten. By simultaneously interrogating and satirizing the casual adoption and consumption of Otherness, Brathwaite-Shirley’s games grant players the power of choice, only to diminish or revoke it entirely.
Screening here for the first time in North America, Brathwaite-Shirley’s Blackzilla (2018) and Digging for Black Trans Life (2019) present viewers with a plethora of gender-affirming and reparative pathways—from pronoun recognition and clothing selections to safe modes of transportation and monetary redistribution—that promise more life, more empowerment, and more agency, especially for Black trans people. These utopian scenarios are, however, intermittently thwarted by foreboding, amorphous antagonists speaking in heavily distorted voices. These hybrid creatures, like all the other figures in their games, are also heuristic devices: they confound stereotypes and hackneyed assumptions about what a Black trans body might look or sound like.
By transposing frustration and helplessness onto the passive armchair travelers of technology, Brathwaite-Shirley stirs them to take on the onus of responsibility for protecting and keeping minority populations safe IRL. Their games seem to ask, “Who are you really when your back is against the wall?”
The screening will be followed by a conversation between Brathwaite-Shirley and Binghao Wong, C-MAP Asia Fellow in MoMA’s International Program.