This spring, the Serpentine presents the first European solo exhibition of American artist Sondra Perry (b. 1986, Perth Amboy, New Jersey), who explores the intersection of black identity, digital culture and power structures through video, media, installation and performance.
Perry makes work about blackness, black femininity and African American heritage, often taking her personal history as a point of departure. Her use of digital tools and material, ranging from blue screen technology and 3D avatars to found footage from the internet, reflects on these modes of representation and the abstraction of black identity in art and media.
Perry has said: “I’m interested in how blackness is a technology, changing and adapting, through the constant surveillance and oppression of black folks across the diaspora since the 1600s. Unmediated seeing isn’t a thing.” This exhibition continues the Serpentine’s engagement with Perry’s practice, following her acclaimed performance for Park Nights 2016, where she shared a billing with the American poets Fred Moten and Eileen Myles.
Perry is committed to net neutrality and ideas of collective production and action, using open source software to edit her work and leasing it digitally for use in galleries and classrooms, while also making all her videos available for free online.
This principle of open access in Perry’s practice aims to privilege black life, to democratise access to art and culture, and to offer a critical platform that differentiates itself from the portrayal of blackness in the media.
With viral imagery of black deaths in the US both sensationalised and the subject of widely disseminated memes, Perry wants to (re-)claim this digital space by foregrounding the use of technologies in her work.
This new site-specific installation at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery will incorporate existing works by Perry, including Graft and Ash for a Three-Monitor Workstation (2016), a 3-D avatar of the artist questioning the current productivity and efficiency culture, and Wet and Wavy Looks – Typhoon coming on (2016), which both references and digitally alters JMW Turner’s 1840 painting, The Slave Ship.