She Mad – Season One, Martine Syms @ the MCA

The word “sitcom” isn’t typically associated with social commentary, but Los Angeles-based artist Martine Syms saw potential in this medium to make a point. In her conceptual project, She Mad Syms synthesizes visual culture by creating a television series that aims to portray how Black experiences are shaped through TV, film, and online media. This five-part video series follows a character named Martine who is an “overachieving, stoner graphic designer trying to make it as an artist in Los Angeles” according to the exhibit description. 

The exhibit title outside of the gallery at the MCA

Each episode in the series takes on a new format and is currently displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Chicago (July 2nd, 2022 through February 12th, 2023). The physical exhibit is housed within a symbolic purple sculptural installation and each episode has its own screen in the gallery space with one video playing at any given time in a randomized sequence.

The pilot episode is titled “A Pilot Show About Nowhere” (2015) and walks through the history of situational comedy dating back to 1928 with a focus on Black character portrayal over time. Other episodes include “Bitch Zone” (2020) which is a parody based on Syms’s summer camp experiences during the Summer of 2000, “Into to Threat Modeling” (2017) which applies the process of mapping security vulnerabilities to Syms’s own self, “The Non-Hero” (2021) which models itself after Lil Nas X’s “Life Story” videos on TikTok, and “Laughing Gas” (2016) that is based on a 1907 slapstick comedy of the same name. 

The exhibit does an excellent job of absorbing viewers in complex subject matter by fusing entertainment with sharp commentary on race and identity using Syms’s lived experiences. Click here to hear more about She Mad from Martine Syms herself. 

Pilot episode playing at the MCA
An image from Sym’s personal archive that was displayed at the MCA

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