In Reifying Desire 6, a video installation presented at the 2014 Whitney Biennial, Jacolby Satterwhite is strapped into a harness, the screen of an iPod Touch glowing between his legs like a digital vagina. Crouching in a way that evokes a Sex-era Madonna, he assumes Kama Sutra positions with porn star Antonio Biaggi while a giant CG tree magically carries their lovemaking into the colorful cosmos. "This is my most controversial video yet," the artist says in his New York studio. "Or maybe it isn't. I'll let you decide."
The piece is the last in a series in which the 28-year-old explores the narratives of his queerness in a surrealist universe, mixing 3-D animation, digital drawings, and footage of himself voguing on the streets of Manhattan in a spandex bodysuit and sculpted headpiece. "I wanted a gestation cycle video where I get impregnated and give birth to a new language system," he says. "All these elements create a friction, a thunderstorm."
Growing up in South Carolina, Satterwhite began sketching to assist his mother, an aspiring inventor who would compulsively send her drawings to QVC. He later realized she suffered from schizophrenia, and for his first major exhibition, "The Matriarch's Rhapsody," he collected 230 of her drawings, retraced them on a Wacom tablet, and juxtaposed their 3-D renditions with family pictures. Dancing, meanwhile, is Satterwhite's way of reclaiming a body diminished by osteogenic sarcoma, the cancer he battled in his youth that left him unable to move his right arm. "I just started going to the gym again," he says. "It took me that long to be confident about my body. Now, as an artist, I always try to defy my body's limits."
WATCH: (NSFW) An excerpt from Reifying Desire 6: Island of Treasure, on view at the Whitney Biennial until May 25, 2014.