W: Terence Nance’s Comfort Film is Purple Rain

Terence Nance’s Comfort Film is Purple Rain

By Mikelle Street for W

March 17, 2023

Terence Nance’s practice is rooted in ritual. His identity is in fact. The multi-disciplinary artist starts and ends his day with prayer and sees his work as a channel for the people and culture around him. Many know him for Random Acts of Flyness, HBO’s genre-bending sketch show that has attracted guest stars like Whoopi Goldberg and Lakeith Stanfield as well as a cult audience, critical acclaim, and a Peabody award. But long before the show the 41-year-old NYU grad had gained attention for his art practice, the subject of a new exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Entitled “Swarm,” his first-ever solo show surveys his last decade of work and runs through July 9, 2023.

“There was a lot of freedom to present, ultimately, a lot of sound, music, film and cinema in a way where the space that it’s projected within is creatively determined by [the team,]” Nance says of the immersive experience, constructed around his surrealist projects. “We were able to dial in a space for this work to be shared and delivered that’s just more conscious of the details.”

Curated by BlackStar Projects founder Maori Holmes, the exhibit features large-scale, multi-channel videos and installations — for example, his short film Univitellin is presented as a multi-channel projection within a recreated bedroom. Here, we talk to Nance about the experience of revisiting his work (“It was a challenge I was excited to meet”), accessing Black omnipotence, and the artistic authenticity of Sesame Street.

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