Martine Syms: Grand Calme

Martine Syms’ exhibition Grand Calme sports a title taken from a variety of Yogi Tea and is loaded with irony; the space is filled with a combination of text, furniture, moving image and sound that reproduces the simultaneous anxiety and mundanity of life.

The centrepiece of the Los Angeles-based artist’s show is Mythiccbeing, a large interactive video work featuring a close-up of Syms’ digital face. Artificially intelligent and with her own mobile phone number, the audience is invited to text the avatar, who in turn responds with comments taken from 200 hours’ worth of the artist’s own responses. These are harvested from what she describes as “notes and notebooks and journals that I wouldn’t want to share with people”.

The walls teem with a series of arrows and slogans which have the appearance of a flow chart, and is a reference to a ‘threat model’, a system which seeks out and shows the vulnerabilities in a computer network. The inner workings of the artist’s mind are vomited across the walls in phrases like “I can’t even get a txt back”, “I have so much fucking work 2 do”, and “Am I getting fat?”; whilst chairs, constructed from polyester straps and steel, display musings such as “Who is going to grab my booty?”

Syms is concerned with the ratio of 2:1- roughly the ratio of an iPhone screen- a concept especially present in her floor-based work RELAX YOUR JAW, a series of photos printed on vinyl and stuck together with pink tape, an arrangement resembling Japanese tatami mats.

The show is disquieting, swimming in its own anxiety and giving the audience the sense that we are being let in on something rather private. At the same time the experience feels reassuringly relatable: fragmented thoughts, half-finished text messages and the sheer banality of a mind’s internal running commentary combine to provide a profoundly familiar experience.

Grande Calme was at Sadie Coles Gallery from 6 September – 20 October 2018.