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‘Hip-hop honeys’ and sitting as a political act: why Tschabalala Self is one of America’s hottest artists

How can a simple moment of leisure be a powerful statement? The New York artist talks about bringing her sitting art to Britain – and explains how the exploitation of ‘video vixens’ inspired her

‘Imagine you’re on a bike, as opposed to a car, a train, or a plane,” says Tschabalala Self. “Imagine how the world appears, how quickly and easily you’re able to move through it. How clearly you can see people and they can see you.” She pauses. “Your worldview shifts depending on the vehicle you’re in. For me, it’s the same with bodies. Inside, we’re all essentially the same – but we’re moving around in different bodies that dictate our experience.”

This freewheeling analogy is characteristic of Self, who lives and works in New York’s Tri-State area. We’re chatting ahead of two projects she’s launching in London this month: the first, a large bronze sculpture of a seated figure in Coal Drops Yard, commissioned by Avant Arte, the organisation-cum-marketplace that aims to make art more accessible; the second, a solo show of new drawings, paintings, sculptures and functional objects at Pilar Corrias Gallery. With both, Self continues her exploration of the Black female body: “It’s the body I feel I can have the most honest conversation about because it’s my own.”

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