I stood there compelled, watching the screen and listening to Cy-Fi say “I am too broke to be white. I am too cultured to be white” over and over again. Placed on the wall of a humble art studio in the south Bronx, “YOU CUNT AFFORD ME” projected a screenplay of designer-brand Gucci’s, all-white online website with Cy-Fi’s voice in the background.
The art piece was a part of the studio’s ‘For Us’ gallery that took place on March 13. The event was curated specifically for women of color and how they portray their worlds through art. The piece described before is only one example of how Cy-Fi, a queer, Muslim artist, draws from her own experience of adversity against her religion, race and sexuality.
Cy-Fi is a native New Yorker and is currently a senior at Parsons School of Design. Aside from being a student, Cy-Fi is also the founder of Spi(Cy-Fi)lms which serves as an artistic space and medium for queer and trans people of color to come together. Surprisingly, she has informed me that she’s fairly new to video art and decided to explore the medium during her time at Parsons. “I use my own visibility through my work and Spi(Cy-Fi)lms to be vulnerable and to encourage more dynamic representations in media and art, and to encourage other queer/trans people of color to engage with video art whether they make videos or just appreciate and support it,” the artist claims.
When discussing Cy-Fi’s inspirations for her video art, it is clear that her inspirations originate from a darker place. The artist claims that her art is her method of how to “cope and express” with the adversity she endures. During the event’s video showings, Cy-Fi’s work again made an appearance. In the video, phrases such as “Overreacting: it’s something that’s there and you need some sort of validation” and “Micro-aggression: a constant target on your identity” are said and echoed by Cy-Fi. These statements are a direct relation to how society’s criteria of acceptance have worked against her.
In today’s world of media, representation often becomes generalized, as outlets will include one or a few marginalized minorities and claim that it’s enough. “I often feel invisible and silenced in my every day,” says Cy-Fi. She further claims that any sort of representation in today’s media is only geared towards a select few and that marginalized people are often “demonized and tokenized for their appearances.” Cy-Fi claims that “we are living in a time where marginalized identities are being used for commercial appeal, but their communities are left ignored and issues unchallenged.” Noticing the current cultural movements, there is an increasing market for minorities for companies to display diversity.
In relation to how her identity is continuously affecting her personal life, Cy-Fi opens up about her faith. Although the artist says that she identifies with Islam on more of a cultural level than a religious one, the marginalization she experiences still remains the same.
The situation Cy-Fi openly shares, also depicted in her video art, entails the New York Police Department keeping her predominantly Muslim community under daily surveillance. She describes how the surveillance was initially placed upon the neighborhood for security purposes on “punish a Muslim day,” but she questions the true motives of the NYPD. Cy-Fi explains that she didn’t receive notification of increased security and that the actual surveillance remained prominent after. Despite the true intentions of the New York Police Department, the situation is an example of Muslim-Americans’ daily difficulties to living in New York City.
There is no question as to the importance of Cy-Fi’s work. Cy-Fi authentically keeps her work intersectional, in terms of representation. The young artist understands how important the messages in her work are and describes how she commonly struggles with the decision of sacrificing her work’s gallery exclusivity in order to remain accessible to her audience. Aside from the recent gallery showing, Cy-Fi also keeps her video art available on her site (www.spicy-films.com and www.cravemorebk.com)
To end the conversation, Cy-Fi further reconnects to visibility in her artistic endeavors. Although Cy-Fi has faced adversity regarding her identities, Cy-Fi makes it clear that she continues to challenge her adversity by using her visibility in her own art. Her work continues to retaliate the attacks on her identities by artistically portraying her viewpoints.
“It is a privilege to be able to be visible, as many people in my community do not have that option, and in many cases it’s just an issue of safety. I do not represent all people in my community, and can only share my personal experiences”
Article by: Isiah Magsino