Girl Talk

2015, 4:02 min, color, sound, HD video

An iPhone-shot reverie depicting poet and scholar Fred Moten letting loose to the eponymous 1965 jazz standard, performed by Josiah Wise (known professionally as serpentwithfeet). Moten twirls in slow motion with a wry smile, crystals from his flowing garb sparkling across the sun-soaked frame. The light drag of Moten’s clothing, in combination with the song’s lyrics, sets a foundation of simultaneous gender criticality and play: “girl talk” is at once a male-defined term for women’s gossip and an addressed command: “girl talk // talk to me.” Wise’s performance inflects the track with new meaning through a bouncing, femme subjectivity—replacing the original “they” pronouns referring to women with “we,” inserting a breathy scoff in the middle of the line: “We, the weaker sex, the ‘speaker’ sex // would males behold.” The final lyrics address the viewer in tandem with Moten’s direct gaze, and the familiar pixelated buzz of consumer-grade cellphone footage: “this girl talk // talks of you.” The effect is a blurry, constantly shifting interplay between singer, dancer, camera, and viewer, a cheeky tribute to the fluidity of performed identity.