Martine Syms is a Los Angeles based artist whose work examines representations of blackness and its relationship to narrative, vernacular, feminist thought, and radical traditions.
Shot on location in Los Angeles, Chicago and Clarksdale, Mississippi – Syms’ new feature-length film, Incense, Sweaters & Ice, follows routes of the 20th century Great Migration of African-Americans – from the rural South to the Northeast, Midwest and West. Girl, the central character, is depicted in her daily life, and as she interacts with WB (White Boy) in person and over instant messenger. This multi-location narrative is never overtly region-specific, yet is psychogeographic in origin. Similarly ambiguous, the camera occupies multiple roles in the film including WB, the interviewer and the omnipotent observer, charting the ways we document ourselves and the lives of others.
While the chameleon-like role of the camera as silent observer deflects Syms’ role as director, her presence can still be felt off-screen, and in a brief cameo appearance. Interweaving biographical narratives with fiction, she offers empowering interludes from Queen White, who delivers motivational monologues to camera from a purple room, providing a soundtrack to Girl’s anxieties and meditations. Using purple as a signature device in many of her works, Syms refers to Alice Walker's 1982 novel The Colour Purple: a recurring motif and reminder of the underlying oppressive racial structures, and their origins, in the United States.
Presented as a co-production between LUX Scotland and Tramway for Glasgow Film Festival.
Martine Syms (born 1988) lives and works in Los Angeles. Her recent solo exhibitions in-clude Projects 106: Martine Syms, Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Easy Demands, CONDO: Bridget Donahue hosted by Sadie Coles HQ, London (both 2017) and Fact & Trouble, Institute of Contemporary Art, London (2016). She has participated in numerous group shows including Future Generation Art Prize 2017, Pinchuk Art Centre, Kyiv; Commercial Break, Public Art Fund, New York (2017) and Made in L.A. 2016: a, the, though, only, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2016). She is founder of the independent publishing house Dominica.
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