Smashing Windows: Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Intersectional Feminism, and Black Empowerment

Never shy about her political stance, Beyonce openly endorsed candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, making clear her belief that the future is female. Her album Lemonade, which Beyoncé produced the same year and complemented with powerful video content, illustrates her feminist stance through explicitly political, but also personal references.

One of the most memorable scenes from Lemonade is the second song Hold Up.  Here, Beyoncé elegantly steps out of a neoclassical building followed by an overflowing mass of water. Then, she jubilantly leaps onto a street, where she takes a baseball bat away from a child and begins to smash the windows of the cars parked on the side of the street. This unexpected twist of tone departs from the innocent ecstasy evoked in the first scene reminds me of Pipilotti Rist’s 1997 video work Ever is Over All. Here, a woman in a blue dress gleefully walks down a street before,  all of a sudden, starting to smash cars’ windows with a long flower stem.

Left: Still from Rist, “Ever is Over All,” 1997; Right: Still from Beyonce, “Lemonade,” 2016.

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Sondra Perry: Resident Evil

Resident Evil, Sondra Perry’s first solo institutional exhibition, fills the second-floor gallery of The Kitchen with a handful of video works made in the past year. Each is “immersive” in one way or another, deploying tactics of spatial activation and coercive, embodied viewing to force visitors into visceral engagement with the screens and their troubling content. These strategies of discord and discomfort mirror the works themselves, which center themes of police brutality and other racialized violence, examining how images and narratives of these issues circulate, distort, and abstract in the digital realm.

Installation view of Resident Evil at the Kitchen, New York, 2016. All works courtesy the artist. Photos by Jason Mandella.
Installation view of Resident Evil at the Kitchen, New York, 2016. All works courtesy of the artist. Photos by Jason Mandella.

The first work one encounters in the exhibition is netherrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr 1.0.3 (2016), set into its own tiny black box. In the video, Perry draws a provocative parallel between the “blue screen of death”—the infamous error screen in Windows operating systems—and the “blue wall of silence,” an unwritten oath among police officers not to incriminate one another in cases of excessive force, brutality, or even murder. At one point in the video, footage of Bill Gates and other Microsoft executives dancing on a convention stage is dubbed over with a deadpan, computerized description of the unwritten officer’s code of conduct (perhaps a double entendre with the computer code that later scrolls by). Another passage features images of women killed by police set to the same voice describing the blue error screens in banal terms. Though intentionally ambiguous, the video uses montage to suggest that capitalist systems and their technological agents are intimately connected with, if not responsible for, the violence wrought against black bodies in neoliberal America.

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