Martine Syms, Lessons I-CLXXX (2014–ongoing)
For the last four years,
has been collecting found footage connected only by, as an explanatory text puts it, the fact that together, they make “a mass of fragmentary narratives, relating (indirectly and incidentally) to the lives of black Americans.” Each clip is 30 seconds long. The booth is presented by London gallery Sadie Coles HQ (in collaboration with Bridget Donahue Gallery, which also represents the artist).
We see the disparate footage randomly shuffling across three separate screens, informed by an algorithm that ensures no clip is played twice in a row. Syms is catholic in her tastes, drawing from the short-lived app Vine, as well as footage she shoots herself and videos arrived at via strange YouTube rabbit holes. The cumulative effect is at first jarring, then boring, then enlightening in a way that makes the whole journey seem more than worthwhile.
In the span of just a few minutes, I saw a man in a chef’s toque dancing along to hip-hop; a car driving through some tropical paradise while chopped ‘n’ screwed rap was blasting; Syms getting a French lesson; a horse trotting on a farm; Venus Williams being interviewed at age 14; a Blair Witch Project-style home movie; and 30 seconds of Syms on her laptop, presumably in the midst of unearthing more clips to add to the project.