Studio set up with a piano, microphones, amp, and various lighting in a room with pink velvet walls with matching pink floors

An Evening with Queen White

Martine Syms

An Evening with Queen White was produced at EMPAC with a 360° camera rig—originally manu-factured to capture footage for virtual reality environments—placed at the center of a mono-chromatic purple set. Guitar amps, microphones, a piano, and acoustic panels that refer to the Motown recording studios of the 1960s decorate the set. Filmed in a single long take, the performer Fay Victor (as Queen White) moved freely around the set and was continually captured by the camera. 

Eschewing conventional VR, Syms explored how the audience can experience this kind of image environment without the use of a headset. The installation played with the possibility that parts of the performance still remain out of frame or off screen. Several screens were placed in different locations around the studio and each only showed a small part of the 360° video, exposing the limits of each screen’s size and shape. A mobile screen allowed the audience to explore the missing parts of the image for themselves. 

An Evening with Queen White is exemplary of Syms’ use of the monologue as a medium for exploring how voice, gesture, and persona are learned and performed. The script complicates the artist’s own biography and points toward how strategies of performing oneself as a Black woman in America are transmitted and crystallized across generations through both familial teaching and societal conditioning. 


August 21–September 6, 2017