Her 2016 video installation quotes the sitcom-as-form and also draws from a 1907 comedic short, Laughing Gas. Syms’s 4-channel installation follows the central character (an aspiring artist also named Martine Syms) on a journey home from the dentist after receiving “laughing gas.” Mixing multiple points of view, clips borrowed from TV, as well as layers of comedy, fiction, reality, and critique, Syms’ work also delves into issues of race, culture, and representation.
For Los Angeles-based Martine Syms, popular culture, television, and the cultural histories woven through both are starting points for her interdisciplinary art practice.
Martine Syms (b. 1988, Los Angeles) uses video and performance to examine representations of blackness.
Her artwork has been exhibited and screened extensively, including presentations at the Museum of Modern Art, Hammer Museum, ICA London, New Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, and The Studio Museum in Harlem, among other institutions. She has lectured at Yale University, SXSW, California Institute of the Arts, University of Chicago, Johns Hopkins University, and MoMA PS1, among other venues. Syms’ recently presented exhibitions include Projects 106: Martine Syms, Museum of Modern Art; Borrowed Lady, Simon Fraser University Galleries, Vancouver; Fact and Trouble, ICA London; COM PORT MENT, Karma International, Los Angeles; Vertical Elevated Oblique, Bridget Donahue Gallery, New York. From 2007-2011 she was the co-director of the Chicago artist run project space Golden Age, and she currently runs Dominica Publishing, an imprint dedicated to exploring blackness in visual culture. She is the author of Implications and Distinctions: Format, Content and Context in Contemporary Race Film (2011). Her first US solo museum exhibition Projects 106: Martine Syms, premiered at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in May of 2017. She is a faculty member in the School of Art at the California Institute of the Arts.