Mendi and Keith Obadike

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The Pink of Stealth, 2003

Technologies: 5.1 surround sound system, AC3 decoder, DVD player, Flash, HTML, Javascript, MP3 stream, video projector

Keywords: game, identity, hypertext, interactivity, narrative


As the Internet first gained popularity in the mid 1990s, some cultural theorists argued that it was part of a new kind of virtual space (sometimes called cyberspace) that we enter as disembodied subjects whose identities are malleable and disguisable. Our bodies are left behind along with our genders, races, and ethnicities. In this new environment, the cyberpundits suggested, our flesh-and-blood bodies don't register because they aren't visible. If a teenage girl could masquerade as a middle-aged man, or vice versa, it seemed that the old rules of identity politics no longer applied.

Others contended that our embodied identities follow us onto the Internet, and that categories such as female, white, or hispanic were every bit as real online as off. In Keith and Mendi Obadike's The Pink of Stealth, color takes on multiple meanings related to race, class, and health. The color pink becomes a sign for whiteness in this multilayered project, which combines an online hypertext work, a Web-based game, and an audio mix that is available online as an MP3 and also on DVD in surround sound.

The hypertext conveys the story of a man, Mark, and a woman, Randi, whose races are never revealed, although Mark is described as a sophisticate who likes to drink, and Randi as a woman with a "less than rosy" life who has "color in her cheeks." Randi seeks a wealthy mate who is able to provide a "red-blooded, blue-eyed heir." This may or may not be Mark, who wishes to see Randi's "true colors." The plot unfolds in a non-linear way through five variations, each revealing only a few fragments of the text. Each numbered variation opens in a pop-up window against a pink background (a different shade each time). The fifth variation, for example, shows the following text fragments scattered across the screen: "a/strange/time/in a crowd/of/ hunters." Each variation strings together words and phrases from the text to form a new sentence, unveiling an encoded meaning.

In the animated game, Fox Hunt (2003), a fox is chased by a hound and a brown-skinned figure on horseback, dressed in the uniform of an English country gentleman-hunter. The game is accompanied by the sound of two mbiras (African thumb pianos). The mbiras appear again in the sound mix, along with a fox whistle and a recording of the entire hypertext piece read aloud by a female narrator. Points accrue at the top of the screen next to the words "uneatable" and "unspeakable," referring to a quote from A Woman of No Importance, Oscar Wilde's play about hidden identity and Victorian society?one of several wide-ranging literary and cinematic references that also include "Pretty in Pink," a 1980s teen-movie about a rich boy who dates a poor girl. In The Pink of Stealth, the Obadikes weave such diverse sources together to explore the relationship between the language of color and the complexities of race and class.

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