The Technicity of Blackness: On Failures and Fissures in the Art of Sondra Perry.”




“Sondra’s body type was not an accessible preexisting template.” A self-aware avatar archly delivers this fact as it stares out from a glowing chroma key blue screen in Graft and Ash for a Three-Monitor Workstation (2016).1 To view the work we must sit awkwardly on a bright orange, modified work bike, gazing up at a digital, not-quite–Sondra Perry addressing us from the monitors affixed to the machine. Bald and appearing only from the throat up, the avatar informs us that it was animated from an image of the artist taken with a Sony RX100 camera under the presumably harsh glow of fluorescent studio light. “We were rendered to Sondra’s fullest ability,” the avatar tells us, using the first-person plural to emphasize the work’s status as an integrative whole, “but she could not replicate her fatness in the software that was used to make us.” This failure of imaging—which emerges from a critical failure of imagining—is omnipresent in Sondra Perry’s practice. Digital rendering programs reject undisciplined bodies. Blue chroma keys aim to solve the “problem” of darkness. Visual technologies fail to render the Black subject, fail to see blackness as subject.2 But even as Perry’s self-described “not-all-that-representative” art object meditates on the condition of its own production, no technological solution appears. There is no perfect tool with which the representation of Perry’s unruly Black body can finally be achieved. Instead, Perry’s practice draws attention to the connection between this violence of invisibility and the parallel violence of hypervisibility.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00043249.2021.1947700.