Tourmaline | Pollinator | 2024 Whitney Biennial | Artist Interview

May 28, 2024

In Pollinator, Tourmaline proposes “that the truth of life is its ongoingness, its essence unchanged and unconstrained by space, time, or physical form.” In some scenes of the film, the artist walks through a garden in a floral headdress—seemingly equal parts generator and receiver of creative forces—and floats on a zero-gravity flight. Additional footage features the funeral procession and community celebration of Black trans activist and performance artist Marsha P. Johnson (1945–1992). Johnson often adorned herself with flowers, acting, as Tourmaline has put it, “as a pollinator for more expansive renderings of self and beauty in the world.” Appearing throughout the film and at its close, Tourmaline’s late father, George Gossett, sings “The Cisco Kid” (1972) by War to the artist as she stands behind the camera. Together, these images communicate the way the artist “experiences loss, past, present, and future—with immediacy, as though those who came before us and are now gone are as yet more alive now than they have ever been.” 

Tourmaline has been essential to the widespread recognition of Johnson’s profound impact on the modern LGBTQ rights movement. In 2012, she drew on years of community organizing and education work to publish a web archive, reanimating Johnson’s previously discarded history. 

The 2024 Whitney Biennial is organized by Chrissie Iles, Anne and Joel Ehrenkranz Curator and Meg Onli, Curator at Large, with Min Sun Jeon and Beatriz Cifuentes. The performance program is organized by Iles and Onli, with guest curator Taja Cheek. The film program is organized by Iles and Onli, with guest curators Korakrit Arunanondchai, asinnajaq, Greg de Cuir Jr, and Zackary Drucker.