Tierra Whack – “Dora”
Ever since her breakout project Whack World, a visual album cramming 15 songs into 15 minutes, Tierra Whack has been known for her colorfully surreal music videos as much as her inventive pop-rap hybrids. That continues today with “Dora,” a new Whack track accompanied by a video from director Alex Da Corte, her fellow Philadelphian.
“Dora” is deeply catchy and subtly eccentric, with Whack rapping in quick melodic outbursts over a warmly booming, loosely cartoonish loop. It’s not really about Dora The Explorer, even though the sound is certainly adventurous. She invited Da Corte to collaborate on a video back at the dawn of the pandemic. The result features a series of off-kilter animated dioramas, sometimes involving Whack herself. Here’s a lengthy statement from the director:
Dora is a tabletop ballet. Dora is a call to persist and to explore.
The state of the world in March 2020 was an unprecedented one. A world confined to whatever place one calls “HOME.” I was in my studio in Philadelphia then, like most days, alone. Listening to Dora, I realize the lovable Latinx cartoon character (who recently celebrated her 20th anniversary) never really materializes in the song. Instead, “Dora” becomes “Door”, one of many clever linguistic slippages Tierra Whack employs on the song– and there is just plainly a call to explore. It was admittedly strange to think about opening doors and exploring at a time when leaving your home was a liable menace to society.
On endless repeat, like the Groundhog days of our past six months, the video developed. Taking root in constant conversation between Tierra and myself via texts and calls, I began thinking of Andy Warhol’s 1975 book Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B & Back Again). A sends image to B. B sends thoughts back to A. Repeat.
Sing BA BA BA BAAAA.
Recognizing that the video would be developed while working remotely and collaboratively with many animators and artists across the country, I began thinking of ways in which different colors work together, always both remotely and collaboratively. In the process of color printing, the three primary process colors Cyan, Magenta and Yellow are printed as tiny dots, in layers, along with Black to produce pictures. I imagined, with the limited supplies in my studio, I would get to work, combining materials and layering them, in the spirit of color process printing to produce pictures, moving pictures. Taking cues from renowned Philadelphia animator, Paul Fierlinger’s Teeny Little Super Guy stop motion animation segments from Sesame Street in the 1970s, Sam & Dave’s Hold On, I’m Comin’ 1966 album cover, Len Lye’s Rainbow Dance (1936), Venezuelan Pop Surrealist Marisol Escobar’s self portraits, Todd Hayne’s queer science fiction masterpiece Safe (1995), Oskar Fischinger’s An Optical Poem (1938), and Claes Oldenburg’s anti-war Lipstick (Ascending) On Caterpillar Tracks tank (1969), I began making characters for our tabletop ballet, constructed out of simple items I found in my kitchen and studio.
On May 1st 1969, Fred Rogers testified before the Senate Committee in defense of federal funding for children’s Public Broadcasting. He said, “If we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable we will have done a great service for mental health.” In the same year, puppeteer Jim Henson and his muppets developed the children’s educational program Sesame Street. Fifty one years later, Tierra and myself still feel it is urgent to find a way to speak to our feelings through music and pictures. Thinking of the ways in which Aretha Franklin, Fred Rogers and Jim Henson navigated the world through good times and bad times with determined positivity was deeply inspiring to me during the making of this video. To make Tierra laugh was in some ways the best I could do on the hardest of days.
A door has opened and yet another door is closed. We are ready to explore. We are ready to open another door, and another door, and another door…
Watch the “Dora” video below.