On entering the space, Tabita Rezaire’s lively and highly-stylised digital self-portraits, titled Inner Fire (2017), are sure to arouse your curiosity. Within the life-sized, New Media artworks lies a complex inquiry into the often problematic relationship between the female body and sexuality within cyber-landscapes. This is a common theme in the artist’s practice, where body, mind and spirit are used to materialise ‘decolonial healing’. Depicted as a goddess, a pole-dancer in a sea of flames, a serpent emperor floating above the sea and a lizard deity in space – the artist embodies fictional archetypes of the Black Woman through photographic self-portraiture and the deployment of retro-style computer graphics that recall the early days of the internet. Lurid colours and animated word-art draw upon a post-internet aesthetic through image, language and performance: reclaiming discrimination where gender, race and sexuality intersect within cyberspace.
Similarly, in the video installation, Sugar Walls Teardom (2016), Rezaire reveals the commodification of Black Womxn’s bodies in the advancement of modern medical science and technology. In the installation, a gynaecological chair invites interactive and participatory viewing of the twenty-one-and-a-half-minute work, honouring the lives of Anarcha, Betsey and Lucy: three named victims of the sexual slavery, reproductive exploitation and torturous medical experiments practised by Marion Sims – the so-called “father of modern gynaecology”. In doing so, Sugar Walls Teardom not only offers voice to the victims but healing for the artist herself and her participants, restating the persistent corruption and violence against Black Womxn within contemporary pharmacology. At the same time, the work honours the erotic pillar of the artist’s “decolonial trinity”, (alongside the other two pillars – technological science and spirituality). Her contribution to the show demonstrates an active reclamation of space and narrative, so we recommend reserving at least an hour to fully experience Rezaire’s progressive and holistic practice, including her 13-minute video installation Premium Connect (2017). For additional information, please read Henry Tudor Pole’s article for Agora.