I cant remember a time a didnt need you
[Play the video game here]
Playtime approximately 30 min
[The art happens here]
Annka Kultys Gallery’s online platform dedicated to the showcasing of digital art in its natural habitat, so to speak. The creation in 2020 of [The art happens here] provides a natural extension to the gallery’s offline programme which has as one of its strengths the presentation of “digital natives” or artists making art that engages with technology and the internet.
ABOUT THE WORK
A fog has overtaken a city. Everyone who was in the city has now changed. Word spreads that this fog can support life that isn’t supported on earth. You are going to see if the fog will support your life or if you are the reason the fog has come.
In I cant remember a time I didnt need you (2020), Black British trans artist and game developper Brathwaite-Shirley employs gaming technology and infrastructure to enact a reparative reversal: to both the level and type of access typically afforded to white/cis, as opposed to Black/trans or other historically-marginalised groups.
Upon entering the space the viewer is met with the first of a series of acid green dialogue boxes glowing through a pixelated yellow misty city landscape. In order to be able to start the game and enter what the artist names *CITY OF DREAMS*, the viewer is requested to provide his/her name and identity (to be chosen among trans, non-binary, gender fluid, nothing, Cis, etc). The terms of engagement and the whole experience are dictated entirely by the viewer’s stated identity within the game, which determines the remaining narrative, as one of the prompts states REMEMBER YOUR IDENTITY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ALL YOU WILL EXPERIENCE. Another of the prompts warns the viewer: THIS ARCHIVE CENTERS BLACK TRANS PEOPLE. THOSE THAT ARE NOT BLACK AND TRANS MAY FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE.”
This ‘discomfort’ in different spaces takes the form of various checks and balances: narrative dead-ends, exclusion from spaces such as the Trans Club, and at one point, even a gamified surgical removal of ‘the violent gaze’. By contrast, those undertaking the Black Trans path through a variety of rooms such as a Pharmacy, a Trans Club, a Hotel, a Temple or Alleyway are rather led with care, empathy, guidance, and protection, culminating in a call for rest.
Throughout history, Black Trans stories have either been erased, or else not recorded in mainstream accounts to begin with, including within video games. Where they do appear, it is often bound to an account of violence, echoing theorist Derek Hook’s argument that the circulation of Black trauma is part of a fantasy of deserved pain, an arena where existing power structures are re-asserted rather than undermined.
The work builds on Brathwaite-Shirley’s already extensive oeuvre of animation, performance, and video games that deals with exploring, recording, and championing Black trans history and identity. In a society determined to erase these stories, I cant remember a time I didnt need you forces the viewer to confront the complex dialectics of voyeurism, spectacle and participation both within and outside the game.
Playtime: approx 30 min.
Through the practice of video games, performance, interactive video animation and sound, British artist Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley creates work centred around the history and present reality of the Black trans experience, tackling the process issues of self and imposed identities and ways of broadening the experience of the world.
Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley (b. 1995) graduated from the Slade School of Fine Art in London in 2019, and lives and works in London. This online exhibition on Annka Kultys Gallery online platform [The art happens here] dedicated to showcase of digital art in its natural habitat, marks the artist’s first solo presentation with the gallery.
In 2020, Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley produced a solo performance work at Tate Modern, London. Recent solo exhibitions have taken place at Annka Kultys Gallery, London, UK (2021); Focal Point Gallery, London, UK (2020); Science Gallery, London, UK (2020); and MU Hybrid Art House, London, UK (2020). Group exhibitions include Re$$urection Lands, Les Urbaines, Lausanne, Switzerland (2019); BBZ GRADUATE SHOW, Copeland Gallery, London, UK (2019); and Transpose: The Future, Barbican, London, UK (2018).
STILLS OF THE VIDEO
Art in America contributor, the writer and curator Legacy Russell, has profiled the virtual experience works of Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley to show the dangers of “trans tourism” and how “building an archive is a trust exercise”. The article focuses closely on i cant remember a time I didnt need you, presented on Annka Kultys Gallery’s Digital platform, [the art happens here] →