Martine Syms: Nite Life

The city is talking more than usual this month.  An ode to storytelling, and the written and spoken word in all its old school and 21st century tech-friendly mediums, O, Miami is most thoroughly infiltrating South Florida with prose, haikus, pop-ups and spontaneous acts of creativity.   From the digital canvas of the InterContinental hotel to the fences of Miami Design District, April has been dog-eared for the O, Miami poetry festival.

Syms Portrait

Photo: Syms Portrait

Among the many contemporaneous events, conceptual entrepreneur Martine Syms will be presenting two O, Miami commissions based on Sam Cooke’s legendary concert at Overtown’s Harlem Square Club on January 12, 1963.  Syms is a powerful storyteller, often using personal anecdotes, cultural investigation and racial discourse in her work.  For one-night only on Tuesday, April 14 at 8:30 p.m. at Gramps Bar, Syms will introduce “Nite Life” – an ephemeral two-person performance lecture that interprets Cooke and the history of a black vernacular.  Pulling from archives about the King of Soul, local artists and a rich oral history, both fact and fiction combine in Syms’ intergenerational dialogue with the music.

Part two of “Nite Life” is inspired by the very same 1963 Overtown concert, which was professionally recorded by Cooke’s label RCA.  Despite being one of his most memorable performances, the album that resulted, “Live at the Harlem Square Club” (named one of Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”), wasn’t released until 1985, well after his death.  In partnership with ICA Miami and the Downtown Miami Development Authority, Syms will respond to Cooke’s record by creating a site-specific text-based piece, which will be publicly displayed on fences in the Miami Design District on Northeast 41st street between Northeast 1st avenue and North Miami Avenue, throughout the month of April.

Martine Syms is based in Los Angeles and uses publishing, video, and performance to look at the making and reception of meaning in contemporary America.  She has lectured at Yale University, the Walker Art Center, University of Chicago, REDCAT, SXSW, ICA London, and MoMA PS1, among other venues; and her artwork has been exhibited and screened extensively, including presentations at the New Museum, the Studio Museum, White Flag Projects, ICA Philadelphia, and 356 Mission.  She currently runs Dominica.

For more information about “Nite Life,” visit: