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Martine Syms presents: Hail the New Puritan (1987) + deader than dead (2020)

The artist Martine Syms curates a short-and-feature pairing of experimental dance films by Charles Atlas and Ligia Lewis.

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Martine Syms presents: Hail the New Puritan (1987) + deader than dead (2020)
Martine Syms presents: Hail the New Puritan (1987) + deader than dead (2020)


Sep 21, 2022, 8:00 PM

2220 Arts + Archives, 2220 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90057, USA

Curated and introduced by artist Martine Syms

We are thrilled to have artist Martine Syms curate a pair of experimental dance films in advance of the release of her first narrative feature, The African Desperate, opening September 23 in Los Angeles.

Hail the New Puritan

directed by Charles Atlas

1987, U.S., 85m, DCP

Originally aired on British public television in 1986, the pioneering video artist Charles Atlas made this vibrant documentary-fiction hybrid à la A Hard Day’s Night, about a day in the life of Scottish choreographer Michael Clark, famous for combining classical ballet with a post-punk sensibility. It follows Clark’s professional life as the director of a provocative dance company, as their surreal performances seamlessly blend with Clark’s time spent in clubs with the likes of Australian performance artist Leigh Bowery (who also provided the film’s costumes and extravagant sets). Hail the New Puritan is a time capsule of a bygone British avant-garde art scene, with music by The Fall’s Mark E. Smith (whose song “New Puritan” provides the film’s title) and contributions by Glenn Branca and Wire's Bruce Gilbert.

“Transformation and creativity constitute a pointed resistance to Thatcher-era austerity, which bleeds into the film through Atlas’s understated B-roll of London streets… Clark’s desire to be open-ended and unclassifiable also makes the music of The Fall a particularly fitting sonic backdrop; when a politely out-of-touch journalist asks Clark if he understands the band’s songs, he replies, “I have an understanding of them.” … Smith’s words are the bedrock of this jagged sonics of rebellion, his cryptic narratives full of anti-establishment motifs. But their significance is also textural, Smith’s defiantly Northern, working-class accent flung into the face of bourgeois London slickness.” -Chloe Lizotte, Film Comment

“Combining mock interviews with footage of the company’s surreal productions, Hail the New Puritan is a vivid time capsule of Clark’s milieu at a moment when London’s fashion, clubbing, and art scenes intersected and reverberated throughout popular culture…. It emphasizes the creative cross-fertilization that is at the core of both Atlas’s and Clark’s work.” -MoMA

“Charlie [Atlas] … is a master of the embodied camera.”—Martine Syms

preceded by:

deader than dead.

directed by Ligia Lewis

2020, U.S., 20m, DCP

"Conceived, choreographed and directed by Ligia Lewis for Made in L.A. 2020, deader than dead was originally a performance planned for the Hammer Museum galleries that had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

The piece eventually became a film, which has since been shown in various museums and galleries. The creation of the performance began with an investigation into the irony and emotional distance induced by the deadpan, a comically deployed impassive attitude. From this form of immobility, Lewis first developed a choreography for 10 dancers who remained expressively flat or dead, resisting any narrative or figurative hold. Following the pandemic, the cast was reduced to 4 performers and the performance moved towards a more traditionally theatrical presentation. For this filmed version, the dancers are inspired by the final monologue of Macbeth and deploy a modular form in which each chapter illustrates death, stasis or emptiness. The performance is also a reflection on play, on familiarity with tragedy in black communities, on time and its loops, on touch as both an act of care and violence. Nevertheless, Ligia Lewis infuses her proposal with a good dose of humour and comedic springs, taking up the concept of corpsing - a theatrical term for involuntary laughter at a non-comical moment. The film does not so much document the interpretation of a play as the potential of a performance." -Fondation Galeries Lafayette

“Lewis makes performance about the impossibility and necessity of staking a claim to embodiment, using dark humor and going straight into the void to find what might be trapped inside of what she calls the logics of the canon.”—Martine Syms

Special thanks to Karl McCool (EAI), Chris Wells and Michael Lieberman (MUBI) and Ligia Lewis.

Martine Syms is an artist who has earned wide recognition for a practice that combines conceptual grit, humor, and social commentary. She has shown extensively including solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Tate Modern. She has also done commissioned work for brands such as Prada, Nike, Celine, Kanye West, and NTS, among others. She is a recipient of the Creative Capital Award, a United States Artists fellowship, the Tiffany Foundation award, and the Future Fields Art Prize. She is in a band called Aunt Sister and hosts Double Penetration, a monthly radio show on NTS. She also runs Dominica Publishing.


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