Selah Marley’s Botanical Oasis
Selah Marley’s Botanical Oasis
PHOTOS : ADAM KARGENIAN
The artist, musician and filmmaker — not to mention daughter of ’90s RnB icon Lauryn Hill and grand-daughter to the greatest reggae musician of all time, Bob Marley — Selah Marley celebrated the opening reception of her first art installation, A Primordial Place at BKLYN Studios this past weekend. The full-sensory installation and accompanying dance performances brought to life the fantasy of Selah’s mind, projecting a display of nature and greenery within the concrete jungle. As you strolled through the floral-filled tunnels and into the atmospheric central space, you could almost feel yourself going down the rabbit hole to Wonderland — but without the creepy Cheshire Cat to greet you.
How’d this all come about?
Honestly, six months ago, my birthday was coming up and I wanted to have a black-light jungle circus party. I reached out to this space and they offered to give it to me for free. So that committed me to the idea 100%. Like, I was just gifted this venue. I had to do the installation. My birthday was in two weeks, but obviously this was going to take longer than that.
Have you ever done anything visual like this before?
I did a film, but nothing like this or of this magnitude.
Tell me about the film.
The film’s called “C’est La.” It was a short-story, silent film that I used to express different aspects of myself and my life. I wanted to express the different feelings that I had with the different scenes — I just keep seeing scenes in my head.
What do you mean?
Like I saw this image of me in a white bathtub with black water and I knew I had to make that happen. Luckily my mom has a studio house and we took this bathtub and put it in the middle of a field.
Oh wow, that must have been tricky for production!
Yeah. It was. Another one was a scene where I was looking at myself in the mirror. I’m acknowledging my existence and where I see imperfections in myself. Then it was me and my friends with fireworks.
It sounds therapeutic in a way.
Somewhat. There was definitely a level a darkness to it. It was just this burst of information in my head and then I feel this need to get it out right away. I put the idea on paper and refine it. I always know what I want, I just then have to explain to people for them to help me realize it. There are definitely over 2,000 images of plants and scenery in my phone right now. (Laughs) I zone out and live in another world a lot of the time. That’s where a lot of my creation comes from.
And there will be dance performances within the space?
Two weeks before the show, I realized that I needed some kind of a performance. I couldn’t sleep. I was up at 3AM and just saw the performance in my mind.
How’d you find the dancers?
I put up on my Instagram that I was doing an open casting. I wanted the dance to be very free and collaborative, so I had them do improv at the audition. It was ballet and African dance. And all of the dancers I chose just synced.
Did you hire a choreographer?
Yeah it was a collaboration between myself, the dancers and Girly Anderson. We’d just feed off of each other.
Did you design the costumes as well?
I did. They have these cute little skirts and their butts are completely hanging out. I wanted them to look like South African Zulu dancers. They have Mongolian lamb on their legs and their forearms. And there’s a fur belt with different pieces hanging from it. Except for Girl Black — she represents this different side. She has an acute sense of self. All of the other girls are virgins and she’s SEX. She’s everything that you want to say, but don’t. It’s like when you meet that guy and you have that one-night stand and there’s just that burst of energy. It’s raw and untamed. She’s that side of ourselves.
Who are the other characters?
Girl One represents my inner child. When I was young I was awkward and I didn’t know who I was exactly; I was still experiencing my body. I was highly analytical as a kid. So she represents my quirkiness and my individualist nature. Then there are the twins. They represent two different sides of me. They’re the good and the bad. They feed off of each other. They’re the yin and yang, manic and calm. They depict my interaction with the world. Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction. They’re the give and the take. Then there are the three others and they portray this sense of freedom. They’re the trinity. They’re like x, y and z; protons, electrons and neutrons; mother, father and child.
Is there a story behind the dance?
It’s like creation on earth — mitosis. You have the one and then it splits and the twins emerge. Then you have the trio. There are so many different ways of looking at it and dissecting it … We’re just diving into my mind. These six characters represent the child in me that will always be there. I’ll always be loud and bubbly.
Where does Girl Seven come in?
Girl Seven is the dominatrix. Sexuality for girls is always repressed. If you try to be sexy, you’re a slut. Obviously we’re more open today and we’re allowed more freedom, but we’re still not as open with ourselves as we should be. And that animalistic side of us is still embedded in our programming — that sacred aspect that we don’t get to express. We are always repressing it. We never tell guys when we’re not satisfied with sex. And Girl Seven isn’t trying to get a guy to like her, this is just the way she is. She’s the part of me that doesn’t give a fuck what anyone thinks of her.
How do you feel now? It turned out so great!
I mean I cried a lot while making this. Like, thinking that it was terrible and people were going to think it sucked. There were many ups and downs. There were so many problems. My boyfriend is a gem. He designed the platforms and has been helping me every step of the way. He was putting turf down, reaching out to videographers and building things. Without him and my friend Justin, it wouldn’t have happened.