“PRESS ANY BUTTON TO ENTER.”
You are taken to a dimly lit space where a blue-gloved bouncing figure cradling a giant worm-like sac informs you that a virus has infected the central computer. The virus comes in the form of a file that you must open. Once the file is open, you are given the option to choose who your ancestors are: Those who were carried across the sea or Colonizers. This is the heart-racing beginning of one of Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley’s (born 1995) interactive game spaces, BLACK TRANS SEA (2021). Brathwaite-Shirley creates alternative universes in which the player faces confrontational questions that examine identity, privilege, and the ways in which they are complicit in oppression.
The spaces that Brathwaite–Shirley creates aren’t carelessly provocative. Players have the opportunity to rewrite history and in turn resurrect Black transgender siblings. Brathwaite–Shirley provides a sui generis level of world–building that not only provides a necessary escape from the global suffering in this current state of ideological, biological and climate crisis but also offers a path to imagine a more generative and humane future.
Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor: You’ve worked with several mediums over the course of your career; from sculpture to black and white line drawings, animated music videos to live performances and now you’re working with majority video game spaces. All of your work seems to be centered around body politics, meaning it works to gain back control over the rights of Black transgender bodies. What would you say is the foundation of your work and which medium do you most enjoy working with?
Danielle Brathwaite–Shirley: The foundation of my work is recording. Everything comes from an actual experience rather than something that pops into my head. The thing that I’m most drawn to or the medium that speaks to me the most currently is interactive art; that means art that you can’t be passive around, that you have to be active in order to experience it.