Martine Syms / USA / 2017 / 69mins
As part of Glasgow Film Festival 2018
Martine Syms is a Los Angeles-based artist, writer, performer and filmmaker and Incense, Sweaters & Ice is her latest feature-length work. Martine describes herself as a “conceptual entrepreneur,” with the topics of her art including feminism, afro-futurism and representations of blackness. With Incense, Sweaters & Ice, we view a narrative that was shot in Clarksdale, Mississippi, St. Louis, Missouri, and Los Angeles, California in order to follow the route of the 20th-century Great Migration of African-Americans.
During the movie, we see the exchange of text messages between the protagonist, Girl, and her partner, WB (White Boy). The text is displayed over voyeuristic film footage and here we see the relationship between the public and the private persona of Girl. We get to view her as she drives around the city and as she gets dressed in a hotel room. Here the viewer has a peering eye into her private life.
The movie itself is obscure. The title does little to explain the narrative and the structure invites the audience into the psychology of the protagonist. This creates an extraordinary and deeply emotional presentation where inner feelings and personal anxieties are expressed in a variety of visual forms. At times the movie cuts to a purple room, where the character Queen White expresses motivational speeches. These interludes do not break up the narrative flow of the film, but instead emphasise the themes and showcase a different voice expressing the similar thoughts and feelings of Girl. The result is a visually absorbing and stimulating experience that enthrals the viewer and draws us into the journey of Girl and her inner turmoils.
Incense, Sweaters & Ice is part of the Crossing The Line Strand at the Glasgow Film Festival. This selection of movies brings new and exciting artists’ moving-image work to the big screen. Tonight’s screening takes place at Tramway to the south side of Glasgow. The location feels significant. It is an arts space and away from the main hub of the film festival and this makes the screening feel more like an event. Here the audience is allowed to view the work as a standalone piece of art cinema and digest the themes of Martine Syms’s intense, enjoyable and gripping movie.