Martine Syms has built a reputation for a practice of elevating the material of everyday life. Using repurposed contexts and personal materials, the artist’s videos and physical work use text and other items to create dense narratives the flitter around the edges of the work on view. For her show at Bridget Donahue, on view through the middle of September, the artist presents an intriguing selection of new pieces that continue this exploration.
Consumer items sit at the center of this show: clothing, free merch items, posters and boxes all swirl across the space of the gallery, presenting a space bound up in the act of consumption, and the material traces it leaves behind. The works are possessed by a ghost of past spaces and past lives, referencing Telfar shows, Boiler Room club nights, and other events that carry distinct systems of meaning and distinct memory for the artist and for some viewers. Quite literally stitched and glued together in some cases here, the works turn these various cultural meanings into a tapestry.
Syms has flirted with the classic material of relational aesthetics in the past, but here seems more interested in its orchestration as a mass of images rather than a single call out to the viewer. These are works the shift and swell with varied meanings for varied audiences, and carry with them a cluttered assemblage of modern commodity capitalism. Brands, events and cold, hard products are on equal footing, each a name and object competing for the viewer’s attention here, and each carrying with them their particular associative payload. Syms is less interested in the exploration of these respective images solo, but rather in their combined affect, the experience of this many symbols of modern capital culled together in a single space. Forced to contend with a torrent of secret codes, the viewer must equally grasp the whole, and be able to see this heap of meaning on its own terms.
The show closes September 25th.
– D. Creahan
Martine Syms at Bridget Donahue [Exhibition Site]