Previously at the ICA - Events

Rami George, Untitled (Saturday, October 16, 1993), 2015, HD video, colour, sound,  5 min

Artists' Film Biennial: In The (Commercial) Break selected by artist Martine Syms

28 May 2016

A programme selected by artist Martine Syms, an artist based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of Dominica, a publishing imprint dedicated to exploring blackness in visual culture. Her participation coincides with her ICA solo exhibition 20 April – 19 June.

Martine Syms is an artist based in Los Angeles. She is the founder of Dominica, a publishing imprint dedicated to exploring blacknuss in visual culture. From 2007–11, Syms directed Golden Age, a project space focused on printed matter. Her artwork has been exhibited and screened extensively, including presentations at the New Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, MCA Chicago, Green Gallery, Gene Siskel Film Center, and White Flag Projects. She has lectured at Yale University, SXSW, California Institute of the Arts, University of Chicago, The Broad, Johns Hopkins University, and MoMA PS1, among other venues.


  • Martine Syms, My Vine Comp, 2016, HD video, colour, sound, 6 min
  • Kevin Jerome Everson, Century, 2012, 16mm transferred to HD video, colour, sound, 7 min
  • Sondra Perry, footage from a studio test of NO NO NO, 2013, HD video, colour, sound, 2 min 15 sec
  • Rami George, Untitled (Saturday, October 16, 1993), 2015, HD video, colour, sound,  5 min
  • Marco Braunschweiler, Monkey, 2016, HD video, colour, sound, 1 min 18 sec
  • Irena Haiduk, Nine Hour Delay: Printemps-Été-Automne-Hiver 2058, HD video, colour, sound, 2 min 7 sec
  • Hannah Black, The Fall of Communism, 2014, HD video, colour, sound, 6 min
  • Nicole Miller, The Borrowers (Ndinda), 2015, HD video, colour, sound, duration TBC
  • Asha Schechter, The Bucket, 2015, HD video, colour, sound, 7 min 30 sec
  • Theo Darst, Doomed Poet 1-4, 2016, HD video, colour, sound, duration TBC
  • Ximena Cuevas, Contemporary Artist, 1999, SD video, colour, sound, 4 min 57 sec
  • Kerry Tribe, Double, 2001, SD video, colour, sound, 10 min 25 sec

Martine Syms' responses to the programme

1. I love the 30-second spot because I love television.

2. A great television ad becomes important when it functions as a temporal marker. The spot must symbolize the beliefs, tastes, language and emotions of an audience and an era.

3. What makes a commercial? Duration—fifteen seconds, thirty seconds, sixty seconds, ninety seconds. Focus—communicate exactly one idea.

4. Writers use the commercial break to structure narrative action. Viewers see the interruption as a time for criticism, speculation, and bathroom visits. At least, viewers used to see it that way. Now there is pause.

5. We call this time shifting. This concept has recently given way to the metaphor of a “stream”; a continuous flow of material. Both scenarios are preconditioned on economic and affective demand.

6. It’s helpful to confuse time shifting with stop-time. Conflate the commercial break with Charlie Parker’s alto solo, and later, G.C. Coleman’s drumming, and later still, the bongos on “Apache.”

7. Kevin Young wrote five lessons of the black radical tradition. More lessons have since revealed themselves to me.

8. My favorite commercial features Michael Jordan explaining that he is successful because he has failed.

9. My favorite commercial features Tyrese singing on a Metro bus.

10. “…And he just kept that beat going. It might be that certain part of the record that everybody waits for—they just let their inner self go and get wild.”

11. Let’s describe this process as “production.”

12. Arthur Jafa recently described the camera as a proxy for the white male gaze. He went on to discuss how capturing motion has a symbolic relationship with black history. Fred Moten added that this “fugitive modality” is an enacted on screen whenever a black figure is present. Jafa had to figure a way out of this with his cinematography.

13. In Read me that part a-gain, where I disin-herit everybody Gordon Hall says, “Politics is something you do with your body.” Before that part, Hall talks about the ways that space can prevent us from “saying or doing particular things, but from even from thinking particular thoughts, or feeling particular feelings.”

14. Resist the dominant logics of the cut, the figure, the voiceover, the frame.

15. Radical politics. Black aesthetics.

16. I know the black radical tradition in the religious sense, which is to say, I feel it deeply.

17. Young writes about the truth and the “troof”. He wonders if the dialectic between the two ever resolves itself. When I asked him about that part in the book, he confirmed that there is no truth. But if there was it would be the lie we call the vernacular.

18. I’ve got the feeling. Don’t fight the feeling. Feel the feeling. You’ve got to feel the feeling. Feel the feeling now. Got to feel the feeling. Just feel it.


Multi-buy offer

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The ICA Artists’ Film Biennial 2016 is a four-day celebration of artists’ film and moving image. The Biennial’s comprehensive series of screenings and talks extends the ICA’s Artists’ Film Club, our regular programme of artists’ film, which profiles and debates the best international artists’ moving image.

Programme supported by the Art Fund, British Council, the Royal Norwegian Embassy and Film Hub London, managed by Film London. Proud to be a partner of the BFI Film Audience Network, funded by the National Lottery.

Go back in time

E.g., 2016-10-25
E.g., 2016-10-25