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Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley

Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley

British, born 1995

Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley (she/her/hers) works in animation, sound, performance, and video games. Her practice records the lives of Black Trans people, intertwining reality and fiction to create participatory work. In 2021 Brathwaite-Shirley was a resident artist at Wysing Arts Centre in South Cambridgeshire, UK. Her work has been shown at Science Gallery London, UK (2020); David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2020); and arebyte Gallery, London, UK (2021), among many others.

An aspect of Brathwaite-Shirley's work is also available on her website: Daniellebrathwaiteshirley.com.

I decided to become an artist after seeing a lot of my friends kind of be forgotten and a lot of my community kind of be erased from history, and part of me wanted to get into the habit of recording and archiving and remembering the Black trans community as a whole.

Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley

Installation view of Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art (Albright-Knox Northland, October 16, 2021–January 16, 2022). Art © Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley. Photo: Tina Rivers Ryan for Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. 

Installation view of Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art (Albright-Knox Northland, October 16, 2021–January 16, 2022). Art © Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley. Photo: Tina Rivers Ryan for Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. 

Installation view of Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art (Albright-Knox Northland, October 16, 2021–January 16, 2022). Art © Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley. Photo: Tina Rivers Ryan for Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. 

Installation view of Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art (Albright-Knox Northland, October 16, 2021–January 16, 2022). Art © Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley. Photo: Tina Rivers Ryan for Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

Installation view of Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art (Albright-Knox Northland, October 16, 2021–January 16, 2022). Art © Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley. Photo: Brenda Bieger for Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. 

Installation view of Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art (Albright-Knox Northland, October 16, 2021–January 16, 2022). Art © Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley (left), Mendi + Keith Obadike (right). Photo: Tina Rivers Ryan for Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. 

WE ARE HERE BECAUSE OF THOSE THAT ARE NOT, 2020

Digital game displayed on projector; gaming chair; pink lights; and vinyl text
Courtesy of the artist

“A lot of my practice is about archiving. It’s about working with Black trans people who are not artists, and allowing them the space to be remembered, and also to generate and create things that they’re not usually able to. That doesn’t just stem from telling the stories, but also from building the tools so that the story can be told.”
—Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley

At the beginning of this game by Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley (she/her/hers), you are asked to identify whether you are “Black and Trans,” “Trans,” or “Cis” (meaning you are cis-gendered, or identify with the gender you were assigned at birth). Depending on your answer, your path forks: Black trans people are invited to join a community of lost ancestors; non-Black trans people are encouraged to use their relative privilege to support Black trans people; and cis-gendered people are confronted with a “security feature” that blocks “trans tourism,” followed by opportunities to learn about being an ally.

With its non-graphical interface, WE ARE HERE BECAUSE OF THOSE THAT ARE NOT recalls the text-based games that emerged in the 1970s, which invited players to enter virtual worlds through their imagination instead of their eyes. Although this game also includes imagery, it is highly stylized, avoiding the stereotypical reduction of Black trans people to either fetishes or victims of trauma: all of the figures are semi-abstract digital avatars who speak and sing with auto-tuned voices as they float in liquid landscapes, resisting the transformation of Black trans lives into spectacle. Made in collaboration with other Black trans women, the game demonstrates how a community can create its own digital tools to imagine new bodies, create spaces, forge connections, and archive histories on its own terms.

This game is also freely available for you to experience on your own devices by visiting blacktransarchive.com.

We Are Here Because of Those That Are Not

Play the game created by Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley to both archive Black Trans experience and teach others about allyship and privilege.

Play here.

I found myself in places of queer nightlife or worship that left me longing for congregation. Within these sacred spaces, Brathwaite-Shirley prompts us to utter confessional mantras aloud, granting forgiveness to others and pledging self-care to our screens.

Legacy Russell, "How Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley Archives the Black Trans Experience"

How Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley Archives the Black Trans Experience

Legacy Russell

Read the full review here.

What’s happening now is that people share these videos without any thought to the effect that it will have on people who are part of the Black community. And it’s seen as positive to share it, but actually there’s no thought behind what that is, and who collects these images.

Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, "Dining on Trauma"

Dining on Trauma: Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley Talks Trans-tourism, Motherhood, and Being a “Freaky Friday Everyday”

Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley interviewed by Tamara Hart

 Read the full interview here.

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