Fragrance Genius and Jacolby Satterwhite on Their Bodily Music Collaboration
Lead PictureImages by Camille Vivier
A unadorned man sits cross-legged, with two figures beside him, swabbing him with paint brushes and regularly revealing a phantasmagoric dreamworld mendacity beneath his pores and skin. All set towards Michael Hadreas’s distinctive falsetto croon, that is the opening scene of Ugly Season, a brief movie collaboration between Fragrance Genius and visible artist Jacolby Satterwhite. It feels redemptive, just a little sinister and, have been it not so meticulously crafted, just like the form of factor you may see if you happen to closed your eyes after taking an excessive amount of ketamine.
Ugly Season, Fragrance Genius’s sixth EP, sees Hadreas transfer in a extra summary, ambient and instrumental course. Alternately foreboding and ecstatic, it has been likened by a number of critics to Radiohead’s 2000 masterpiece Child A. Hadreas initially wrote the album because the rating for The Solar Nonetheless Burns Right here, a recent dance piece by artist and choreographer Kate Wallich, which he additionally carried out in and co-directed. In June this 12 months, he collaborated with Satterwhite on the 28-minute-long visible accompaniment, which mixes fantastical 3D landscapes, fetishgear, go-go dancing and spiritual iconography from chakras to evangelical megachurches.
Hadres and Satterwhite make for pure collaborators: not solely are they two of essentially the most fascinating queer artists of their technology, their work shares a sure sensibility. It’s a form of defiant fragility, or, in Satterwhite’s phrases, the sense of “flesh being flayed, unfold aside and put again collectively gracefully and monstrously.” Working inside the mediums of 3D animation, immersive set up, and digital actuality, Satterwhite’s work explores themes of queerness, the physique, consumption, and the concept of utopia. The visible accompaniment to Ugly Season was the fruits of two years of conversations between Hadreas and Satterwhite, and deeply knowledgeable by their shared love of sure popular culture references, together with David Lynch, Lana Del Rey, Madonna and 90s sitcom Household Issues. “Popular culture, for me, is that this house that’s concurrently frivolous and comfortable, however with quite a lot of melancholia residing inside. Attempting to barter that’s one thing that each Michael and I’ve in frequent,” says Satterwhite.
After the quiet intimacy of its opening, Ugly Season finally explodes into a hallucinatory and expansive satire of American life. “There’s a portal that takes the viewer into the nuclear household and the home dwelling, the capitalistic thought of the comfortable household that you just see in sitcoms,” says Satterwhite – a fantasy turned on its head by the presence of queer males go-go dancing on the entrance garden. The movie ends on a word of therapeutic, with the identical determine from the opening body being pieced again collectively once more. It’s a transcendent, discomfiting, richly textured work, and possibly like nothing you’ve ever seen earlier than.
Right here, Hadreas and Satterwhite focus on their collaboration, the importance of dance, the anti-LGBTQ+ backlash at the moment sweeping the US, and extra.
James Greig: How did you meet each other and the way did this collaboration come round?
Jacolby Satterwhite: A colleague and good friend launched us, then Mike and I had a name collectively in the course of the top of lockdown, simply attending to know one another. That dialogue proceeded all through 2021. When he despatched me the album I listened to it on daily basis and let it get into my system.
For a full 12 months, I used to be doing my very own analysis and constructing these digital phrases that I create by accumulating belongings, doing analysis in several communities and having strangers make drawings for me. Over time, I discovered that Ugly Season and its lyrics have been cosmically aligned with the place I used to be conceptually. I used to be engaged on a venture the place I used to be commissioning strangers in Cleveland, Ohio to make drawings of their visions of utopia. I felt like Ugly Season’s lyrics urged the same pathos, and that’s when all the pieces started to gel.
Michael Hadreas: What was actually inspiring to me about making the dance, which the music was written round, was that I used to be collaborating with individuals who I felt might perceive the place I wished to go. After I began speaking to Jacolby, I in a short time felt that very same connection. We’re not making an attempt to go to the very same place, however we now have some form of comparable form of unstated needs, and so it simply made me actually belief him.
“In a method, I form of really feel like I’m post-human, [because of my prosthetic shoulder] and I’m consistently negotiating with that psychologically” – Jacolby Satterwhite
JG: What do you admire about one another’s work?
MH: I might inform from watching and interesting together with his [Jacolby’s] work that our connection was going to occur. There are specific substances: his work might be maximal in seven instructions however it at all times has quite a lot of grace and concord. That’s very satisfying, and that’s what I’m making an attempt to reckon with in my very own work – these large concepts and large emotions alongside smaller concepts and emotions.
JS: I agree. After I was engaged on the physique of labor that I used to be making between 2011 and 2014, I got here throughout Mike’s music, and watched and skim quite a lot of his interviews. I simply mined his work a very long time in the past, and I discovered such comparable threads of thought. My work addresses points with my physique, my well being, my lovers, my familial previous psychology, and existential dread. I’ve by no means seen one other artist oscillate between these issues in the best way that I do, however flesh being flayed, unfold aside and put again collectively so gracefully, fantastically and monstrously is one thing that occurs in Fragrance Genius’s music – and it’s one thing that makes me really feel like I’m okay. I feel we each make very incongruent topic issues congruent.
JG: Dance and choreography play a central give attention to this movie. Why are you drawn to this medium
MH: I’ve quite a lot of points with my physique, however [while working on this project] I additionally felt actually deeply related to it, which is an odd place to be. After I first began performing, I didn’t actually transfer in any respect, I used to be simply sitting behind the piano, however over time, I wished to make use of it to speak extra. And it’s change into an important a part of all the pieces I do now.
JG: Do you suppose dance as a medium is ready to convey issues that different mediums can’t?
MH: Oh, for positive. Doing the precise dance efficiency and all of the rehearsals for it wrecked me, as a result of I’d by no means actually been in a room full of individuals the place I used to be simply speaking bodily. There’s quite a lot of actually hippie stuff that I’ve concepts about, and I feel loads about transcendence. I’ve every kind of concepts on a regular basis, however I haven’t got quite a lot of emotions generally. And dance is a method for me to get these concepts into my physique, and in addition to have totally new ones that I wouldn’t have even considered in any other case.
JS: Equally, I’ve quite a lot of points with my physique. I’ve a prosthetic shoulder, as a result of I had osteogenic sarcoma after I was a child, which is a [type of] bone most cancers. I’ve very restricted motion and may solely transfer my forearm. These limitations have actually pivoted each choice in my life. While you work round your limitations, it creates innovation. My observe has at all times explored motion as an act of defiance.
In a method, I form of really feel like I’m post-human, [because of my prosthetic shoulder] and I’m consistently negotiating with that psychologically. My creations are a response to that, and I feel that’s why I grew to become a extremely formidable digital animator and recreation maker, as a result of that is the one method I can have full company over my craft as an artist In terms of dance, I is usually a heroic, dynamic and elastic determine with the facility of my pc, my 3D animation, poetry, projections, and a digital camera. I can achieve this a lot of it with my artwork.
JG: I assumed that quite a lot of the movie is sort of erotic or horny, particualrly all of the go-go dancers. Was that intentional?
JS: I’m deeply embedded in radical fairy queer scene, and plenty of of my buddies are deep within the go-go scene. They’re actually good at that, however additionally they examine classical ballet and trendy dance, and may play 15 completely different devices. What’s so superb about them is that they’re 3000% in command of their sexuality, and so they’re simply very visceral and expressive individuals. That’s what my consideration was with the casting: they’re individuals who can heal the world, not solely with their poetic, sonic and expressive energies, but in addition with their their sexual confidence. It liberates the individuals round them, and makes Brooklyn and Decrease Manhattan a greater place.
“I wish to give younger individuals permission to see themselves in the identical method with out having to posture as another person” – Michael Hadreas
JG: There was an enormous resurgence of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment within the US just lately. As queer artists, how do you’re feeling about that?
JS: I grew up within the Deep South in a really conservative Christian household the place none of this was permissible from day one. I needed to reckon with disgrace and denial, and I needed to unlearn quite a lot of that up till my thirties. So, I’m not too shocked.
However quite a lot of my work is about resisting and unpacking that and normalising my life. I’ve at all times been a power of resistance. So I don’t really feel any completely different now, seeing issues that have been already apparent come to the forefront for individuals who most likely thought issues have been loads higher than they’re. I’ve by no means been an optimistic individual.
MH: Me neither, I really feel the identical method. It’s simply been a part of it because the starting. After I launched Queen [Perfume Genius’s defiant, 2014 queer anthem], individuals have been asking me on a regular basis, ‘Why are you penning this? Do you suppose the world actually wants this tune?’ As a result of issues have been supposedly getting higher.
JG: It’s miserable that Queen feels much more related now than it did in 2014.
MH: I feel it does, yeah. Individuals are emboldened now, however individuals have at all times been terrible. Issues have at all times been dangerous. However that doesn’t imply I’m not upset about this backwards motion.
JG: Do you suppose this anti-queer backlash will inform both of your work going ahead?
MH: What’s laborious is that each time I attempt to deliberately include that vitality, it feels form of preachy. I don’t wish to be too indulgent So it is about discovering this stability of: how do I speak about issues which are vital to me and are available from a spot that’s private? But additionally, it’s actually vital to me that it’s useful and one thing that I’d have wished to listen to after I was in a darkish place, or one thing that I want I’d hear from another person proper now. And I’ll attempt to do it myself, and blend all these issues collectively. And I’m positive that that might be extra in my thoughts subsequent time I am going to start out writing.
JS: I agree with all that, when your work is chatting with your youthful self and hoping that youthful self exists in some technology. It’s actually rewarding if you end up working from a place the place you already know somebody must see somebody older present in a sure technique to give them company and get them out of a darkish place. My form of physique, with my form of presentation, have an effect on and accent, isn’t seen in a business and public area. I wish to give younger individuals permission to see themselves in the identical method with out having to posture as another person.
Ugly Season by Fragrance Genius is out now.