Spiegel-Wilks Seminar: Venice Biennale

Contemporary Art in East Asia and the World


Fabric Workshop & Museum: Jacolby Satterwhite: Room for Living

It was an interesting contrast to see Jacolby Satterwhite’s solo exhibition, Room For Living, at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, after having seen so many pieces of art by several artists in a fairly crowded space at the Venice Biennale. Satterwhite’s exhibition as the FW&M marks the end of the artist’s 2 year residency at the museum, a prestigious residency that many international artists have participated in, including Louise Bourgeois and Anish Kapoor.

Satterwhite’s exhibition uses animation and virtual reality for an immersive experience on the museum’s 8th floor, and various 3D printed sculptures and videos on the museum’s second floor. I was initially overwhelmed in the exhibition (video art can be very hit or miss for me), so I was sure to grab all the paper handouts I could and read the wall labels. This helped me move from simply appreciating the technical skill of using the 3D animation program Maya, to actually understanding the various components of the exhibition.

Reading articles about the exhibition and interviews with the artist once I got home gave me kind of a lightbulb moment. I’m happy I had the experience of seeing the exhibition without having done any preparation so that I could discover different elements by myself, but I think I would have missed many important details and connections had I not done some investigating after the fact.

Now that I have more information, I think it would be very worthwhile to go back to revisit the exhibition to see what I missed or overlooked initially (generally, I think this is always a great idea). While I was researching the exhibition, I was very interested in reading about the various layers working together in this complex exhibition, with themes of technology, homages to art history, sexuality, and very personal references, to name a few.

I think another important component of this exhibition is all of the public programming surrounding it. Though I unfortunately missed the public lecture at Penn with the artist, there are several events meant to promote conversation and dialogue, whether it be a print making workshop or an artist talk. That to me is part of the strength of the exhibition, it feels very integrated with the goals of the FW&M.

The exhibition makes it clear that Satterwhite spent 2 years at the FW&M for the artist’s residency, since the artwork is very intentionally meant for the space it seems, though individual pieces could travel. It feels deliberate in its usage of the fairly unique space of the museum.

Overall, I think going to this exhibition should be approached as an experience that continues even after leaving the museum. As the viewer immerses themselves in virtual reality, watches videos, and explores the various sculptures, there is a cohesion of disparate elements. It is clear that this was a collaboration between the artist and the museum as a result of the relationship that formed over the past two years. And I definitely recommend reading interviews with the artist, which for me only made me appreciate the exhibition more. It is both forward thinking in its usage of technology, while remaining very grounded in introspection.

Natasha Guy

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