Alum Martine Syms and Her Digital Avatars Featured in New York Times

Martine Syms sits on the floor dressed in a white tank top and a long black and white tulle skirt. She has long pink braids. Behind her is a potted plant and a white and orange electric guitar.

Martine Syms in her Los Angeles studio. Image courtesy of the New York Times.

Martine Syms in her Los Angeles studio. Image courtesy of the New York Times.

Alum Martine Syms (BFA 2007) recently earned a profile in the New York Times where she discusses her ongoing projects, including a retrospective at the CCS Bard Hessel Museum of Art, her exhibit Neural Swamp at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and how she navigates the art world using her many avatars. Her retrospective Martine Syms: Grio College showcases many videos and installations. In the video Ded, avatars of the artist are subject to multiple grotesque deaths, referencing images of Black death caused by police brutality, and turning them on their head into a form of gallows humor. In Neural Swamp, Sims uses algorithms and artificial intelligence to create two digital actors who recite “an amalgamation of sitcom clichés and tongues.” At the center of Syms' many projects is an attempt to reconcile absurdity with reality and a desire to “interrogate what society expects of Black women and Black artists in particular.” 

“There’s always a level of seriousness read into a lot of things that I’m doing that I don’t necessarily connect with,” Syms tells the Times. “I’m using a signifier, Blackness, which for some people can connote serious pain, but I see it as a real space of joy and freedom.”