For the second in a series of commissions for The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Great Hall, interdisciplinary artist Jacolby Satterwhite (born Columbia, South Carolina, 1986) has transformed the historic space with a site-specific multimedia installation. Titled A Metta Prayer, the project fuses choreography, video, animation, lighting, and music to imagine a kaleidoscopic, computer-generated world within The Met’s Great Hall. The installation features live performances on select dates by the artist’s collaborators including Hairbone (Raul de Nieves with Jessie Stead), Ioanna Gika, KelseyLu, Kindness, Lafawndah with Nightfeelings, Patrick Belaga, serpentwithfeet, and Ahya Simone.
Satterwhite’s ambitious installation at The Met is the result of a highly technical creative practice involving a myriad of software platforms and emergent technologies. Projected onto the walls of the Great Hall, the six-channel video features more than 70 animated objects from The Met collection that populate an imagined digital architecture. Live action sequences captured in three dimensions feature collaborators—including Solange, KelseyLu, and Moses Sumney and drag performers like queer wrestling group Choke Hole—as characters within his narrative. Satterwhite animates these elements together with computer-generated imagery, applying the logic of video games to his unique virtual world.
At a time when Black and LGBTQ+ communities face continued threats of violence, A Metta Prayer constructs a digital space that expresses love, joy, and resilience. Satterwhite draws inspiration from the Buddhist Metta prayer, a mantra of loving-kindness, to build a narrative that rebels against the conventions of commercial video games. Rather than perpetuating violence, the characters in A Metta Prayer dance, perform, preach, and pose. Scenes inspired by endless runner platform games, in which players move forward, gain points, and avoid obstacles, show characters collecting mantra “coins” to achieve enlightenment. Encounters with police result in dance flash mobs. Heroines ascend from a dystopian city to a cloud-filled sky teeming with life. Throughout the 21-minute video cycle, Satterwhite deploys mindful repetition as a formal principle, linking the video’s rhythm to the recurrent nature of the Metta mantra. A soundtrack produced by PAT (Jacolby Satterwhite, Patricia Satterwhite, Nightfeelings, and Patrick Belaga) pulses with energy, providing the video with its driving beat.
The commission is made possible by Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon B. Polsky, and The Director’s Fund.
Additional support is provided by Sarah Arison, the Adrienne Arsht Fund for Resilience through Art, the Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Fund, Peter Steinberg and Kathrine Gehring, and Helen Lee Warren and David Warren.
Special thanks to NYU Tandon @ The Yard, NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, and NYCAP3D for video production support.