STEVENSON is pleased to present The Revolutions That Did (Not) Happen by Silvia Martes, marking the fifth iteration of AMS.
In its adoption of cultural elements from the African diaspora alongside science-fictional motifs, Martes’s film has been described as a speculative story in the tradition of Afrofuturism. To form allegories on social conventions, including power and possession, the artist has interwoven connotative images and gestures with minimal sounds. The Revolutions That Did (Not) Happen, which includes artists in its cast (among them Siminkiwe Buhlungu, previously featured in AMS), premiered at Museum De Pont in Tilburg. The curators wrote:
Body parts hung from a clothesline, mannequins that come to life and human teeth as currency: the Silvia Martes film The Revolutions That Did (Not) Happen (2021) quickly gives rise to an ominous feeling. But with her surrealistic science-fiction tales, Martes keeps us riveted to the image.
Martes (1985), who finished her artist-in-residence period at Amsterdam’s Rijksakademie in the summer of 2021, was awarded the Theodora Niemeijer Prijs 2021 a few months later. She usually makes short films in which alienating events derive their credibility from film sets that she herself has meticulously designed. The films, in which the artist herself generally plays a role, tell no clearly chronological story. They are sooner collages of various sometimes absurdist scenes that have been loosely and intuitively interwoven. The viewer is given casual glances, as it were, into a world that initially seems familiar but which nonetheless remains totally elusive. It is then up to viewers to interpret this suggestive collage of images and puzzling scenes and make their own stories with it.
This film of Martes takes place in the year 2085, although this is never explicitly evident. In a wordless narrative, she suggests an age in which political and social structures have collapsed as a result of wars, pandemics and natural disasters. The new society to be developed is one of equality, one where women of colour – in line with the artist’s own skin colour – work in all levels of its hierarchy. But it is also a society that bears an unpleasant number of similarities to a totalitarian state, in which everyone’s identity has been swapped for a grey suit, and people carrying out monotonous actions cannot be distinguished from robots. For this film Martes has taken inspiration from the way in which, through the influence of the internet and social media, we have all begun to resemble each other, while – paradoxically enough – individuality is being rewarded with ‘likes’ at the same time. The film is thus full of ambiguities about the necessity and meaning of change, mass behaviour, individuality and the costs of the work ethic. Matters that continue to occupy us even after the film is over. By fantasising about the future, Martes exposes above all the shortcomings of the present.
Silvia Martes was born in Eindhoven in 1985. She received a BA in Fine Arts from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam in 2013, and completed a residency at the Rijksakademie in 2021. Martes has presented solo projects at the Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven (2022) and De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilburg (2022). She has participated in group exhibitions at Kunsthal Extra City, Antwerp (2022); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (2021); Pictura Dordrecht, Dordrecht (2020) and EYE Filmmuseum, Amsterdam (2020). In 2021 Martes received the Theodora Niemeijer Prize from the Van Abbe Museum and was shortlisted for the Prix de Rome.
Kadir Van Lohuizen, Ghita Skali, Siminikiwe Buhlungu and Cian-Yu Bai previously featured in AMS, our exhibition series that introduces Amsterdam-based artists to local audiences.
The exhibition opens on Saturday 19 November, 10am to 1pm. The gallery is open throughout the festive season except for public holidays.