Sensus Plenior

Artist: Steffani Jemison
video | High-definition video, black-and-white, sound | 34:36 | 2017

Steffani Jemison’s Sensus Plenior follows the leader of the Master Mime Ministry of Harlem, ordained minister Susan Webb, as she prepares for and delivers an evocative but silent rendition of the gospel classic “Anointing” by J Moss. The practice of gospel mime, which has developed in African American churches over the past twenty-five years, draws on multiple historical traditions of movement, from African dance to twentieth-century theater. Fittingly, the title Sensus Plenior is Latin for “fuller meaning,” a concept used in religious interpretations to describe divine intent that goes beyond human language. In keeping with this idea, Jemison focuses on Webb’s hands and face as she performs, exploring the possibilities for a radically innovative aesthetic in which ideas, emotions, and sensations are conveyed through gesture and expression alone. After filming Webb, Jemison arranged a soundtrack with contributions by violinist Mazz Swift and bassist Brandon Lopez, who improvised musical responses to the filmed sequences. (Image courtesy the artist)


Whitney Biennial 2019 | 2019.05.17 - 2019.09.22 | Whitney Museum of American Art(New York City, NY, United States)