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Midnight Moment: LaJuné McMillian’s Movement Portraits

Midnight Moment: LaJuné McMillian’s Movement Portraits

Appearing on the screens of Times Square every night in June, avatars spin and dance in a shifting landscape of vivid color and light in LaJuné McMillian’s Movement Portraits. As the 3-minute film comes to a close, the animated portraits transform into documentary footage, revealing the dancers behind the avatars, and offering a glimpse into McMillian’s practice of movement data collection.

Movement Portraits draws from and expands upon the artist’s Black Movement Library project – a library for activists, performers and artists to create diverse XR projects; a space to research how and why we move; and an archive of Black existence. McMillian was inspired to begin the Black Movement Library by the lack of diverse characters and movements in 3D modeling software, flaws in motion capture databases, and, in particular, lawsuits filed against the video game Fortnite for using dances from mainly Black creators without permission, compensation, or credit. The dances “Milly Rock” became “Swipe it”, the “Carlton” became “Fresh”, and so forth, effectively erasing the origins of these dances. McMillian’s project explores methods of combating the erasure, dilution, and exploitation of Black culture and people. McMillian asks the viewer to consider how they can discover, learn, invest in, and steward systems that prioritize liberation and abundance.

Movement Portraits serve as a way to learn about the performers contributing their movement data to the Black Movement Library. What happens when we ritualize the archival process of data collection, and invite the community as a witness? Black movement does not only represent our individual experiences, but it also represents our collective memory, transcending space, time and oppressive social structures. It allows us to connect to each other, our ancestors, our deepest selves, and gives us space to communicate to our future. Black movement is a technology, holding the stories of our existence across the Diaspora,” – LaJuné McMillan

Using Motion Capture and the Unreal Engine, performers send their movement data to be translated into visuals for the Black Movement Library. Through this body of work consisting of both performances and VR installations, McMillian has created a growing archive and digital tool dedicated to Black dance and movement. For their Midnight Moment, McMillian presents a collection of Movement Portraits featuring performances from Roobi Gaskins, Lamb, Renaldo Maurice, Roukijah Rooks, and RaFia Santana, with documentary footage shot by Manuel Molina Martagon.

McMillian’s first solo exhibition, Embodied Metadata, will be on view at bitforms gallery June 23–July 30, 2022. The artist’s Black Movement Library Portraits will also be featured at the Tribeca Film Festival as a VR experience in the New Voices Competition, on view June 8–19, 2022.

Presented in collaboration with bitforms gallery, Movement Portraits is the third of twelve works by women that will appear as Midnight Moments over the course of a year, in celebration of the program’s 10th anniversary.

LaJuné McMillan is a New Media Artist, and Educator creating art that integrates performance, extended reality, and physical computing to question our current forms of communication. They are passionate about discovering, learning, manifesting, and stewarding spaces for liberated Black Realities, and the Black Imagination. McMillan believes in making by diving into, navigating, critiquing, and breaking systems and technologies that uphold systemic injustices to de-commodify our bodies, undo our indoctrination, and make room for different ways of being.

McMillan has had the opportunity to show and speak about their work at Pioneer works, National Sawdust, Leaders in Software and Art, Creative Tech Week, and Art & Code’s Weird Reality. Previously the Director of Skating at Figure Skating in Harlem, they integrated STEAM and Figure Skating to teach girls of color about movement and technology. McMillan has continued their research on Blackness, movement, and technology during residencies and fellowships at the Jerome Hill Artist Fellowship, Eyebeam, Pioneer Works, Barbarian Group, and Barnard College.

Founded in November 2001, bitforms gallery represents established, mid-career, and emerging artists critically engaged with new technologies. Spanning the rich history of media art through its current developments, the gallery’s program offers an incisive perspective on the fields of digital, internet, time-based, and new media art forms. Since 2020, bitforms gallery has maintained a satellite location in San Francisco at Minnesota Street Project that became permanent in 2021. Supporting and advocating for the collection of ephemeral, time-based, and digital artworks since its founding, bitforms gallery artists are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Center for Art and Media (ZKM), Karlsruhe; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and Borusan Contemporary, Istanbul, among other institutions internationally.

Art

Suzanna, co-owns and publishes the newspaper Times Square Chronicles or T2C. At one point a working actress, she has performed in numerous productions in film, TV, cabaret, opera and theatre. She has performed at The New Orleans Jazz festival, The United Nations and Carnegie Hall. She has a screenplay and a TV show in the works, which she developed with her mentor and friend the late Arthur Herzog. She is a proud member of the Drama Desk and the Outer Critics Circle and was a nominator. Email: suzanna@t2conline.com

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