In ‘The African Desperate‘, filmmaker Martine Syms pokes fun at the art world
Her production is multiple, her inspirations do not have any principles : Martine Syms is an essential figure in contemporary art, and her works are exhibited from London to New York. Released in 2022 and screened this Thursday 16th March at Los Angeles' MOCA, her feature film The African Desperate draws inspiration in her very own experience, but also — and mostly — in her entourage. For Numéro art, the artist depicts, in her own words and through Danielle Levitt's lens, ten personalities that are a part of her great artistic family.
Artist Martine Syms in Los Angeles.
At just 34, Martine Syms has carved out a prominent place for herself in the world of contemporary art. Represented by London gallery Sadie Coles HQ, the Los Angeles native, who has shown at both MoMA and the Art Institute of Chicago, uses a variety of formats to write both personal and collective myths: monumental photo collages inspired by her own life story, sitcom parodies mixing web culture and cultural theory, intimate portraits of her friends and relatives, not to mention a podcast that she hosts. Lacking in neither versatility nor ambition, Syms is overflowing with ideas about how to address questions of desire, identity, gender, race and community.
The author of several videos for Prada and Nike, she has achieved international recognition for her moving-image work, and, at this April’s New Directors Festival, premièred her début feature film The African Desperate. Entirely self-produced, the movie draws inspiration from Syms’s personal experience in the art world as it follows student Palace Bryant during the 24 hours after her graduation from art school. From odd encounters with strange neurotic characters to wild parties in New York and Chicago, Syms depicts an artistic milieu of snobbery, pretensiousness, superficiality and hysterical bloated egos through which her character moves with ever growing dismay. Frantic and engaging, it crackles with all the sharp humour for which Syms is famed. For Numéro art, photographer Danielle Levitt shot Syms’s artistic family in Los Angeles, a community – a term that, in the context of her work, takes on all its full meaning – of 12 people who inspire and sometimes contribute to her projects, among them singers, actors, writers and relatives, such as her niece and her brother.
MOCA Artist Film Series: Martine Syms, The African Desperate (2022) 97 min. Thursday, March 16, 2023, 6pm. MOCA Grand Avenue. Free with RSVP
“Saturn is a popstar. They have a new EP on the way. We met on the beach.”
“Rocket Caleshu a writer based in Los Angeles #bde. Everybody falls in love with Rocket.”
“Grover Whitmore is an actor and comedian, pop culture expert, a meme queen if you will. Grover is so much fun. One of our most iconic moments we share is recreating Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie outside of Dan Tans. One day we will be your favorite podcast.”
“Susan Kounlavongsa is one of my favorite DJs in LA. She’s the LA station manager at NTS, host of straight honey. insane chef, her catering company is @lazysusanla.”
“Liv Barret is my boyfriend, we share Clippers season tickets and she owns a Gallery called Chateau Shatto.”
“I have lunch a few times a week with Brittany Asam, she is also a Taurus so she loves the finer things in life. She’s a good person to talk things through with ideas, games, dating, you name it.”
“Nicole Otero is my fav person in the world to talk about films with. An amazing director and editor and she always got jokes.”
“Brent Freaney and I shared a studio for a long time, he is one of my closest friends. Brent runs a tech company, we collaborated on a lot of projects together. Is forever my vacation buddy, where are we going next?”
“Tania Enriquez I’ve known for so long, she worked at the Pasadena Urban Outfitters, she is just one of those people you just always saw around. She was like the coolest person, she is still the coolest person. Tania makes jewelry and clothes, she is the mayor of Los Angeles. She knows everyone. And everything.”
“Doctor Williams Syms supportive brother. Ellington is my niece. A psychic once told me that Ellington’s soul is connected to my grandmother. Ellington is a very unimpressed toddler, she's only one and cannot be bothered. August makes noise music.”