The New Yorker recently published a profile of SAIC alum Martine Syms (BFA 2007). Syms discusses the inspiration behind the works featured in Projects 106 (her first US solo museum exhibition, on display through July 16 at the MoMA), growing up in Los Angeles, brief stints in branding, and above all else what it means to accomplish what she has while navigating the world as a Black woman.
At 29, Syms is a force to be reckoned with—she graduated from the School at just 19 before eventually moving back to Los Angeles to open an independent press (Dominica Publishing) and pursue creative documentary film-work. Her thesis project, a mash up of a scene from the MTV reality show Real World: New York in which two housemates argue over a racist slight, is very much informed by the questions she continues to grapple with in her work today. Of the show she asks, “Is it a documentation? Or is it a production?” These provide the basis for her most recent film, Incense, Sweaters, and Ice, which depicts the lives of three (mostly nameless) characters as they negotiate the complicated intersection of performance and surveillance.
You can watch Syms’ thesis project My Only Idol is Reality, and more of her works at the Video Data Bank.