Akeroyd Collection


Martine Syms, SHE MAD: Laughing Gas, 2016

SHE MAD: Laughing Gas (2016) is the first episode of an ongoing series titled SHE MAD: short videos that take the form of a semi-autobiographical sitcom about a young woman trying to make it as an artist in Los Angeles. Drawing from a range of sources including early cinema, television shows, advertisements, and internet memes, Syms dissects the ways Black experiences are mediated on television, in film, and online. In this iteration, the work also draws from a 1907 comedic short, Laughing Gas, a silent film by Edwin Porter, which follows Mandy, played by Bertha Regustus, as she moves through the world laughing uncontrollably after receiving nitrous oxide at the dentist’s office. Syms’s 4-channel installation similarly follows the central character on a journey home from the dentist after receiving laughing gas. Mixing multiple points of view, we see the dentist inform her that her card has been declined and that she needs to find another way to pay. Leaving the dentist laughing, a series of improvised scenes of her commute, by walking and on public bus, leads us through her neighbourhood. The juxtaposition between the harsh reality of the situation and the sitcom’s canned laughter, the viewer is caught in an uneasy mode. We recognize the tropes of comedy but can’t ignore the issues of race, culture, and representation that are brought uncomfortably to light.

Medium4-channel video installation, colour, sound
Duration6 minutes 59 seconds
Editionof 5 + 1 AP