Contemporary art is often defined as the art of the now, and the work of Martine Syms is of this very moment. She defines herself as a conceptual entrepreneur, not an artist, and in her work, she adopts any discipline, any distribution method, any formal strategy or model that responds to the shifting boundaries of culture and business.
Regardless of the method or lens she is using at the moment, her work investigates how Blackness is circulated as an image. One of her main interests has been the entertainment industry, especially film. Black references are at the core of the movies - gestures, movement, language style, and fashion all essentially shape what we see on the screen and Syms has pushed us to see that more clearly.
With her new installation at the Institute for Contemporary Art at VCU, Martine Syms continues moving into examining technology, specifically artificial intelligence and social media. In this space, unlike in entertainment, there is very little, if any, reference to Blackness. The third “release” of what Syms refers to as a research project, Shame Space asks what Blackness and Black femininity might look like in this space.
Listen to my conversation with Amber Esseiva, assistant curator at the ICA, about Martine Syms and this paradigm-shifting installation that happily raises many more questions than it answers.
Martine Syms, Shame Space, is on view through May 12, 2019, at the Institute of Contemporary Art at VCU.
Paige hosts the LookSEE podcast and is a freelance audio producer, an art lover, and a lifelong Richmonder. Her favorite place to be is in a museum. A close second is a bookstore.