The Altar of Resources

The Altar of Resources



I am not

an identity artist

just because I am

a Black artist with multiple selves.


I am grappling with

safety and futurity.


We look.

We capture.

We watch.


We worship

Our altar of resources,

Who happen to be rich and white.


And, who are we?

We are culture.


We violate.

We condemn.

We remember. 


We alter,

According to memory’s needs.






But never why,

Or even how…


Why do we need safety?

Why should we secure futurity?

Why do we worship

This altar of resources?


How do I find safety?

How do I secure futurity?

How do I protest

Your altar of resources?


Besieged with the legacy of

Performing the Other,

Where will I find refuge?


My body is


Jury, and


Of my realness.


Three strikes.





Three strikes

And I’m out.






I am not asking who I am.


I am transcending.

I am becoming.

I am longing.


I am escaping

To the land of NOPE,

In the in-betweens

Of a glitched landscape.


Expose me.

Exploit me.

Consume me.


Love me.

Absorb me.

Worship me.


In the fantasy

Of an individual.


I think…

I think of…

I think of this..

I think of this in order to…




To remember

Is an ethical act.

To make peace

Is to forget.


But, I must forget.

To transcend.

To become.

To belong.


To confront



I must forget

In my remembering.


The status of reality

Remains contested

In performance.


Who are we?

Who are you?

Who am I?


I am

an identity artist

because I am

a Black artist with multiple selves.


If I asked you, who you are, what would you say? How would you describe yourself? Would you focus on your accomplishments, whether academic, social, or financial? Or on your hardships in life? How would you tell the story of your life, and what would you leave out? However, before we can answer these questions for ourselves, we must first understand the power of narrative in order to analyze how we understand our own identities, perhaps as stories. What is the story we tell ourselves of who we are? Because of how the media of popular culture influences components of who we are—as individuals and within a collective—is it possible to exist outside of social constructs, if we refuse to participate? Can we choose to participate in culture? Can we escape the colonial gaze? Can we separate ourselves from how others define us as? the altar of resources—a poem, video, and performance—analyzes the interpretation of racialized bodies in visual culture through critiquing the body as a marker of identity.

To see. To view. To look. To watch. To stare. Both unconsciously and consciously, we practice looking every day to make meaning of the world around us while negotiating social, cultural, and political relationships. “To look is an act of choice” that mediates the power dynamics of influencing and being influenced.1 In other words, looking functions as a learning process in absorbing the knowledge that constructs our reality; it is an experience of finding purpose. Images serve as a tool of construction, furthering a representation of something or someone. They provide evidence of its subjectivity, or individual nature, “as [an] interpretative act of someone who has a culture, an ideology, and often a conscious point of view.”2 On one hand, images are vital in recording, remembering, and reflecting on the past and present. However, this spectatorial quality of human behavior—in addition to the greater culture of consumption we exist within—leads towards the tendency to classify others into roles based on their perceived identity, which is assisted by superficially identifying bodies as representations of a greater narrative.

Images memorialize ideologies and identities through their representation of a subject. They are stories that tell us about the world and who we are in the eyes of the public. In our image-saturated culture, the ability to deconstruct these representations depends on the collective memory the language and publically understood meanings being referenced. The representation of Black female bodies, in particular, exemplifies the pervasive nature of the operation of power dynamics. Historically, our cultural landscape has stripped us of our human-ness, diminishing us into becoming performing objects without autonomy. From Thomas Stothard’s The Voyage of the Sable Venus from Angola to the West Indies to the role of the “video vixen,” a throughline can be observed of the ways in which images of Black female bodies have created a memory of our bodies being sites of deviance, sexualization, and otherness in contemporary culture.

The narratives of the past invent the present and serve as the key to “understanding the stories we tell ourselves.”3 As such, the representation of Black female bodies has led to the Black female identity being memorialized as deviant, hypersexual, and an inferior “other.” The legacy of being an “other” has been inescapable for people of color who have been stripped of their humanity. A historically-based process, their perceived otherness has always been at odds with the idealization of white womanhood. Bodies become identity markers through framing practices, narratives of identity, and what is popularly considered sources of cultural knowledge. My work, the altar of resources explores possibilities of escaping the framing of narratives of identity where “historical racial, sexual, gendered meanings and stereotypes [are] inscribed upon Black female bodies.”4 In this work, through an interdisciplinary approach, I was able to evoke the traditions of Black female and queer entertainers using authorial gestures to simultaneously reproduce and resist objectification.

Our cultural resources for identity construction idealize whiteness as a destination to be longed for by marginalized bodies. Yet, I long for safety and futurity. The glitched landscapes of digital space offer this potential. Narrative within video art offers space to challenge historically racialized and gendered discourse by displaying a multiplicity of the self. I use the phrase “multiplicity of the self” to reference the varied layers of categorization and identifications we subscribe to in order to define ourself. The woman in the video is unraveling, tired, and confused. They can no longer bare the burden of the altar of resources. We are witnessing their unbecoming and we just stare as they get dizzy and drunk from trying to transcend beyond the confines of the physical realm. By juxtaposing the recording and live performance, exhibited on December 13, 2022, the woman is able to allude the gaze of the audience as they stare, watch, look, view, and see. They find safety in the in-between moments, keeping their anonymity.

Yes, we have a choice of what we look at and how we interpret the meaning of what we observe, but we are not able to force others to adjust their looking practices. Looking is an individual act informed by a collective fixated on popular media culture, and we can only control our own way of seeing. Self-narration is the vital tool of self-actualization. Through the medium of video, I am able to express the multiple layers of my identity while relying my own exhaustion from the expectation of social categories. I am escaping to “the land of NOPE,” where I exist within and of myself outside of the colonial gaze.5 So, if someone asked me who I am, I would answer, “I am an identity artist because I am a Black artist with multiple selves. I transcend, I become, and I long to exist without judgment so I may secure my safety and futurity.”

  1. Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, “Practices of Looking: Images, Power, and Politics,” Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture (Oxford University Press, 2005), 10.
  2. Jay Ruby, “The Ethics of Imagemaking; or, “They’re Going to Put Me in the Movies. They’re Going to Make a Big Star Out of Me…” New Challenges for Documentary (Manchester University Press, 2005), 309.
  3. Ramtin Arablouei and Rund Abdelfatah, hosts, “A Story of Us?” Throughline, NPR, February 3, 2022, Spotify.
  4. Treva B. Lindsey, “Complicated Crossroads: Black Feminisms, Sex Positivism, and Popular Culture.” African and Black Diaspora: An International Journal, vol. 6, no. 1, (2013): 56.
  5. E. Jane, “NOPE (a manifesto),” Tumblr, 2016.
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